State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) has co-sponsored two bills signed...

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) has co-sponsored two bills signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul that aim to stop the production of fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and digital passports. Credit: Danielle Silverman

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed two bills that make it a felony to create and sell phony COVID-19 vaccine cards and digital passports.

The laws create Class E felonies. Each is punishable by up to 4 years of incarceration or probation. Both laws make it illegal to create a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine card and alter computer data to indicate an unvaccinated person is inoculated.

Hochul signed the bills into law late Wednesday and both went into effect immediately, according to her Thursday announcement.

The paper vaccine cards and the state’s popular Excelsior Pass and Excelsior Pass Plus — issued by physicians, nurses, pharmacists and others who provide COVID-19 shots — are increasingly used by governments and businesses to stem spread of the virus by restricting access of unvaccinated people into businesses, theaters and sports venues.

The bills’ co-sponsor, Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) said, "It’s never been more urgent that we protect this process from fraud so that the health and safety of the public isn’t compromised. … Communities are relying on genuine proof of vaccination status as a tool to keep their spaces safe from COVID transmission."

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts reported that the typical cost of phony vaccine cards with the logo of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was $100 on Sept. 2 after President Joe Biden announced a vaccine and testing requirement for private businesses nationwide. Fake vaccine cards have been reported across the country, including among NFL players.

Hochul said the law will make the state safer from the virus and bolster efforts to vaccinate New Yorkers.

"These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records," Hochul said, "and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system so we can be even more prepared down the road."

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