More than 400 universities are requiring Covid-19 vaccines. But the murky threat of fake vaccination cards worries some students and experts

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can voluntarily share their Covid-19 vaccine status with administration, but those who show up on campus unvaccinated or choose not to disclose their vaccination status will have to get tested for coronavirus weekly.

When apprehensive students started approaching Benjamin Meier, a professor of global health policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, about their peers buying fake vaccine cards, he began to worry about the effectiveness of university policy. Classes at will begin on August 18.

A spokesperson for UNC-Chapel Hill said they have not found any instances of students uploading fake vaccine cards. The spokesperson did not respond when asked how the university distinguishes between real and fraudulent vaccine cards in photos.

Vaccination cards were not designed to be long-term proof of Covid vaccinations, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The cards can be easily forged but it’s a federal crime, which is punishable by a fine and up to five years in prison for forging government seals found on the card. Forging a card could also violate university rules and students could face punishment from their schools as well.

But as thousands of students plan to return to primarily in-person instruction over the next few weeks, identifying fake cards through the photos in online portals may pose a challenge for university administrators.

What (fake vaccine cards) result in is those who are unvaccinated and untested being in environments where they could be carrying and spreading the virus.