A woman who goes by AntiVaxMomma on Instagram has been charged with selling fake vaccine cards—and her co-conspirator, an employee at a medical clinic, could go down with her.
Jasmine Clifford, the 31-year-old “AntivaxMomma,” allegedly sold about 250 forged COVID-19 vaccine cards on Instagram from May to July this year, according to the Manhattan district attorney. The scheme involved selling these cards that falsely stated an individual had received a COVID-19 vaccine.
But the ploy didn’t stop there: For an additional $50, individuals could have their name entered into the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) database, a system that tracks the state’s immunization records. Generally, only medical professionals have editing access to this system, so Clifford allegedly enlisted 27-year-old Nadayza Barkley, who works at a medical clinic in Patchogue, New York, to enter the names.
At least 10 individuals were falsely entered into the NYSIIS database, and at least 13 of the 250 individuals who bought a card from the scheme were front-line essential workers who worked in hospitals, medical/nursing schools, and nursing homes, according to the Manhattan DA’s press release. Those who bought a vaccination card—which were advertised on Instagram—paid the duo via CashApp or Zelle.
“We will continue to safeguard public health in New York with proactive investigations like these, but the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions,” District Attorney Cy Vance, who’s leading the investigation, said in a statement. “We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms. Making, selling, and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences.”
Clifford and Barkley are charged with first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and conspiracy in the fifth degree. Clifford, a self-described “entrepreneur,” has also been charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument.
The 13 individuals who were identified to work in essential-employee roles have also been charged, but the DA has yet to release further info on those charges, and the investigation is ongoing.
In a statement, Facebook said it removed Clifford’s account nearly a month ago: “We prohibit anyone from buying or selling fake—or even genuine—COVID-19 vaccine cards. We removed Ms. Clifford’s account at the beginning of August for breaking our rules, and we will review any other accounts that might be doing the same thing.”
The various vaccines for COVID-19 have undergone extensive testing and clinical trials. More than 370 million Americans have received at least one dose, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine just received full FDA approval for adult use. The vaccines are all free, and so are the associated proof-of-vaccination cards.
However, people keep buying into conspiracies and refusing to take the vaccine—leading to deaths and illness caused by the Delta variant, as well as the potential for new, more deadly variants to emerge. Customs officials in Memphis seized 121 packages totaling more than 3,000 cards at a FedEx shipping hub earlier this month.
Customs officials say the influx of fake COVID vaccine cards is taking valuable resources away from stopping other hazardous materials from entering the country.
“These vaccinations are free and available everywhere,” Michael Neipert, area port director of Memphis, said. “If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officers’ time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself.”