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Fake vax cards are a threat

A "truth in vaccination" bill that would clarify

A "truth in vaccination" bill that would clarify the criminality of faking a COVID-19 vaccination card awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul's signature or veto. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The combination of vaccination and mask-wearing thankfully has served Long Island relatively well.

The numbers in New York City are even better, in part due to the city's additional mandates, requiring vaccination for those in many indoor locations, for teachers and, as of this week, for police officers, firefighters and other city employees.

The only way to keep COVID-19 from regaining momentum, and to reduce the higher toll upstate, is by continuing to vaccinate and to require vaccination where possible.

For that to work, we must know the people who say they're vaccinated actually are.

New Yorkers must be able to trust that vaccinated-only locations are, indeed, only open to those who've been immunized against COVID-19. The legitimacy of vaccine records is particularly important for hospital patients and nursing home residents, and those who are immunocompromised, who depend on everyone around them for protection.

Yet, fake vaccination cards and even photoshopped or fraudulent versions of the digital pass have become far too common. In some cases, they're sold for hundreds of dollars each.

Incomprehensibly, some influential advocates are dangerously defending fake vax ID's, suggesting there are legitimate reasons for people to claim to be vaccinated when they're not, or even to fake a vaccine card or the digital Excelsior Pass. They're telling Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto a "truth in vaccination" bill that would clarify the criminality of such fraud.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and a host of other organizations say the bill would disproportionately lead to over-policing Black and brown residents. They suggest many people still lack access to a vaccine and might need a fake vaccine card as a "workaround." They say the bill would criminalize individuals "simply for doing what they can to survive."

That's troubling language when it comes to a pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 people nationwide. It says it's OK to break the law. In fact, individuals who fake vaccine cards are "doing what they can" to put others in harm's way. In this case, the advocates have taken a worthy concern — the over-policing of minority and low-income communities — way too far.

A number of district attorneys across the state, including in Nassau and Suffolk counties, are far more persuasive, supporting the measure and noting that, beyond clarifying the crimes involved, the bill "sends a powerful message that our laws do not tolerate fraud, particularly when it comes to public safety."

If vaccine access remains a concern anywhere, Hochul should make sure anyone who wants a vaccine can get one. But if she truly cares about the necessary mandates she has instituted, Hochul should sign the bill. And the advocates should put the health of those they purport to worry about first.

No excuses.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.