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Why Using a Fake Vaccine Card Is a Bad Idea

By February 14, 2022April 6th, 2022No Comments

You may have heard about the run-ins pro-football players Antonio Brown and Aaron Rodgers had with vaccination issues, as well as the tennis player Novik Djovik who was deported from Australia over his refusal to get vaccinated and thus forfeited his chance to play in the Australian Open.

For more details on these high-profile cases and what these types of cases could mean for college students, check out the commentary below from our team at DC Student Defense.

High-Profile Vaccine Cases in the News

In December, the National Football League suspended Antonio Brown, a star receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for three games because he misrepresented his COVID-19 vaccine status. After an investigation, it was revealed that Brown and two teammates (Mike Edwards and John Franklin III) had obtained fake vaccination cards. 

In the case of Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, the NFL fined him $14,500 for not wearing a mask as is required of unvaccinated players. The Packers were fined $300,000 for not managing his high-risk behavior better. 

Unlike Antonio Brown, however, Rodgers did fully disclose his unvaccinated status to the Green Bay Packers and the NFL. Rodgers did lie to the media about his vaccination status, but his forthrightness with his employers may have shifted the penalties to his team rather than him.

Losing out on thousands of dollars may seem like a steep price to pay for using a fake vaccine card, but these two high profile examples involve very well paid professional sports teams and athletes who can afford it. What are likely repercussions for college students?

Criminal Penalties for Using a Fake Vaccine Card

Let’s start with potential criminal charges. Because a vaccine card has federal seals from the CDC and HHS, forging these seals carries potential fines and up to five years in prison. In the potentially analogous cases of fake ID cards used by students to engage in undersgae drinking, prosecutors have shown little inclination to throw the book at mere possession of fake IDs – usually those cases result in very low charges. However, making the cards and selling them would be a more risky proposition that prosecutors are likely to take more seriously.

You should also keep in mind that both federal and state laws may prohibit forging vaccine cards as well. For example, New York and Washington D.C. have passed laws making forgery of vaccine documents punishable with at least two years in prison.

College & University Penalties for Having a Fake Vaccine Document or Misrepresenting Your Vaccine Status

If your school accuses you of using fake vaccine cards, then you should seek advice from an experienced student defense attorney immediately.

Try to put off explaining how you obtained your vaccine card or how you used it until you can first consult with your attorney.

Whether you support COVID-19 vaccination or not, attempting to deceive your college/university about your vaccination status by using a fake vaccine card can put you at risk of criminal and university penalties. If you are unvaccinated, you are better off informing your school and complying with whatever procedures they require for vaccine exemptions.


We’ll leave you with an observation about the tennis player Novak Djokovic’s experience at the Australian Open because it offers an analogy for students. Djokovic found himself accused of misrepresenting his compliance with Australia’s Covid-19 laws and ended up being deported which prevented him from seeking an record-breaking 21 st Grand Slam victory. While he can always try again in later years and other tournaments, the opportunity he lost was hard-won and preciously vulnerable since in the life of a professional athlete you never know if injury or other circumstances will affect your performance in the future.

Djokovic’s experience offers a warning because being reckless in your adherence to your school’s Covid-19 rules can deprive you of your hard-won and precious opportunity to complete your education!

Contact DC Student Defense today

If you have been accused of using a fake vaccination card or otherwise disobeying your school’s COVID-19 policies, you may be worried that your university won’t respect your rights. DC Student Defense is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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