Some colleges with a COVID-19 mandate have policies in place to prevent the submission of false documents.
To provide an extra layer of protection against the transmission of COVID-19, more than 1,000 colleges and universities have implemented vaccination mandates for the fall semester. Many have reported significant compliance, with over 90% of populations receiving doses.
These large percentages reassure the heads of institutions, but are they all legitimate? Since March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies have warned of the increase in fake COVID vaccination cards. Despite website closures and arrests, bad actors persist in dark spaces on the web, selling them for $ 200 or more. Those who are not vaccinated buy them to meet job requirements and, yes, to bypass college requirements.
According to a new survey released by Intelligent.com, 46% of 1,250 unvaccinated students said they created or purchased fake COVID-19 vaccination cards to comply with the policies of institutions that prescribe vaccines. More than half say they continue to lie “in social circles” about getting the shots.
The sample size is small, so it is difficult to assess how widespread the practice might be in higher education, although the Associated Press reported in August the concerns of dozens of faculty members and of students for that to happen. Colleges and universities that simply require students to upload photocopies of their immunization cards without requiring any other proof could give unvaccinated students the ability to easily circumvent these policies.
âMost of the students I work with received the COVID-19 vaccine in the early stages of its availability; almost all of them expressed serious concern about getting the vaccine and encouraging others to get the vaccine as soon as possible, âsaid Beata Williams, admissions consultant at Intelligent.com. âMy belief is that the greater number of students vaccinated will far exceed the number of students who submit false vaccination cards. That being said, the United States should consider implementing electronic surveillance for immunization tracking. “
Apart from this, institutions must rely on their own policies to ensure compliance or face the possibility of students attempting a number of strategies to circumvent them. Among those interviewed for the Intelligent.com survey, nearly 20% of those who said they provided false documents attested to verbal or written statements because their institutions did not require additional verification. Another 16% said they called for a bogus medical exemption, while 15% said they conveyed religious claims that were not true.
Once entered and approved, the unvaccinated students said they were lying to avoid conflict, difficult conversations, pressure to get the vaccines or be humiliated for not doing so, according to the survey. Among the unvaccinated, the percentage of men who lie is around 60%, while 65% of Asian students and 60% of unvaccinated white students admit to lying, percentages that far exceed women (41%). , Hispanic / Latinx (48%) and Black (40%) students.
How institutions are responding
Intoxicating institutions with warrants have added warnings during the verification process for students who enter proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
- The University of Illinois says the McKinley Health Center verifies students who submit their vaccine information through their portal.
- The California State University system, in its COVID-19 self-verification form, requires students to sign an addendum stating the accuracy of the information they provide. Students may face penalties under the Student Code of Conduct for falsifying information.
- Washington State University boldly points out the potential penalties for adding false COVID-19 verification documents: âIt is illegal to submit fraudulent or counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards. Please consult FBI guidelines. It is also illegal to request an exemption or accommodation on false, deceptive or dishonest grounds. Any student who has submitted fraudulent or forged records, or false, misleading or dishonest information about their immunization status, medical need for exemption, or sincere religious beliefs will be referred to the Center for Community Standards. The consequences can include, but are not limited to, expulsion from the university.
Penalties for violating the code of conduct can be severe, but they can increase for students if federal officials detect misuse of the cards. Although rudimentary in design, they contain the logos of the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health & Human Services. Those who submit, buy, or sell using these logos can be fined and sentenced to five years in prison under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1017.
Colleges and universities that find falsified information have options, including suspension and expulsion. But will they go that far?
“Will this be seen as a student caught using a fake ID, or as an issue of plagiarism or academic dishonesty?” Asks Katie Burns, admissions counselor at IvyWise College and former senior associate director of admissions at MIT. âFalse identity documents or violations of community norms are usually dealt with through a restorative justice-type model, helping the student to learn from the mistake they have made. Academic dishonesty issues are usually much more black and white and can progress quite quickly until a student is expelled from college.