Reports have been coming in about people using fake Covid vaccination certificates to travel abroad. Seems like the strict regulations surrounding the specific kind of vaccine for specific countries have forced people to adopt questionable measures in order to travel anyway. Recently, pictures have been circulating on social media stating that this business has been going on in Pakistan as well.
Reportedly there are 6 coronavirus vaccines approved for use in Pakistan: Pfizer/BioNTech, CanSino, Sputnik-V, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac. However, as per the authorities, Pfizer and Oxford are available in limited quantities which is why the majority of the population is being injected with other ones.
People can receive certificates after using these vaccines but they may not be considered eligible by the country they want to travel to. For example, the US only allows visas to those who use Pfizer, Oxford, or Moderna shots. So in order to bypass the specific vaccine regulation, some businesses and individuals have started to forge certification for other vaccines which were not readily available in Pakistan.
Fake Covid Vaccination Certificates Business on the Rise
This business is operating from the shadows with not much detail on mainstream channels. It seems that a shady individual posts something on social media to rally up as much crowd as possible and then delete the post. As per media reports, government departments are also involved in it as the vaccine certificate is useless without a NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) card. It is currently unclear how NADRA is helping to flourish this business. Folks on social media have claimed that the price of fake Covid vaccination certificates ranges from 2000 to 20,000. Apparently, a customer can get any certificate of the desired vaccine.
Moreover, normal folks can run easy scams regarding vaccine regulations. For example, a group can enter a vaccination-restricted restaurant or mall without showing real proof of vaccination. They would edit one friend’s name as “1166” who would replicate the original message vaccinated people receive from this 1166 number and send them to others. They would show that message to the employee and that’s it, all of them will be allowed to enter that restricted area. This shows the weak accountability factor of Pakistan that is prominent in many sectors.
This is not the first time Pakistanis have been doing forgery of documents. In 2014, there were many cases of fake polio vaccination certificates. Around 150 certificates were found to be fake by the immigration staff. One of the culprits confessed that the card was given to him by a photocopier for 200 PKR. WHO (World Health Organization) required all Pakistanis to be vaccinated for polio at least once. However, some were doubtful about the intentions of international authorities.
They believed in a controversy that suggested that the West was trying to kill people of the third-world nations in innovative ways. Others thought that it was just a money-making model while most were just looking for a shortcut that would save them from the inefficient process of obtaining a vaccine card from the hospital.
The Problem is Global
The same can be said for the people who are purchasing fake covid vaccination certificates. This business is not only limited to Pakistan but other countries are also facing falsification of vaccine documents. Reportedly, More than 1200 vendors in the UK are selling fake certificates for as little as 25 GBP. Moreover, up to 100 people per day tried to enter the UK with fake vaccine cards in February 2021. Israeli researchers found evidence that government departments like the NHS and CDC were involved in forging the fake certificates. Such certificates are then sold on the dark web and messaging apps including WhatsApp.
In Mexico also, fake covid vaccination certificates were being given to those who were traveling to countries that demanded proof of vaccination. According to reports, a forged document-printing vendor confessed that even the customers who got Chinese vaccine shots came to them to obtain fake certificates for another vaccine because the Chinese one was not recognized in the US. Customers usually paid 1100-2000 pesos and received the forged documents within 2 hours. Canada was also worried that unvaccinated Americans were coming to the country with forged certificates. In June, German police created a special unit to fight this growing business.
What Does it Mean for the Free Vaccination Drive?
Such practices can seriously damage the global mass vaccination efforts. Many countries have been fighting the fourth wave of coronavirus due to which this information has shaken the cores of many. In Pakistan, the cases have crossed a 1 million mark and around 30 million doses have been administered. However, vaccines being administered does not mean that people are actually getting vaccinated. Such data is still not available which has doubled the public concerns about the attraction posed inside fake Covid vaccination certificates.
There have been many complaints against some vendors and vaccinators but the authorities have failed to take any action. What else can authorities do if their own departments are approving forged documents? It does not look good that at one instance the governments are helping with free vaccination and then taking money on the other hand through suspicious activities.