Germany: Counterfeit vaccination certificates increase

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Germany: Counterfeit vaccination certificates increase

A sign outside a Berlin pharmacy reads: “Those who try to use fake digital vaccination certificates will be prosecuted. The pharmacy owner wants to speak anonymously because only women work in his pharmacy, who are daily confronted with fake loyal customers.” Sometimes they decide to do nothing for fear of sometimes – sometimes violent – customer reactions.

Similar cases are described by many other pharmacists in Germany. Digital vaccination certificates with QR code are issued mainly in pharmacies. Especially now, during the holiday season they are in demand: for Christmas shopping in shops, for visits to spas, bars and restaurants. Vaccination certificates are also issued by doctors and vaccination centers that carry out vaccinations. However, those who have not been vaccinated choose the pharmacies, where it can not be fully verified whether the vaccination has actually taken place.

Counterfeit vaccination certificates throughout Germany

Guran Donner runs a pharmacy in an area of ​​southern Saxony with a particularly low vaccination rate. Only about 52% of the population has been vaccinated in Dipoldiswalde – a low figure compared to 70% of those fully vaccinated in the German population as a whole. The low vaccination rate also means that many may choose the illegal route of fake certificates in order to participate in public life. “We encounter this problem several times a week,” says Donner.

Now the employees in his pharmacy are suspicious and process more carefully every request for a vaccination certificate. They check the number of vaccines, the time of vaccination or whether the paper vaccination booklet has information other than the coronavirus vaccine. Donner is also vice-president of the Saxony Chamber of Pharmacists. As he points out, complaints about frauds with fake certificates reach the Chamber every day. “It’s a serious problem all over the country, especially since the mandatory vaccination or disease (2G) certification rule was introduced,” he said.

Legal framework and safety valves

Until recently, there was legal uncertainty for pharmacists issuing vaccination certificates. Until recently, possession of a forged certificate was not considered a criminal offense. In the meantime it has changed. The penal code provides for imprisonment of up to five years for issuing and using fake vaccination certificates. But that alone does not solve the problem. For example, in Oberbergeriser Kreis in western Germany alone, an area of ​​about 270,000 people, police are currently investigating 160 related cases.

Another problem that is observed is the improvement of imitations. According to Silker Walter, a pharmacist from Hanover, she has already twice appealed to the police for cases of forged certificates. For the past two months, he notes, counterfeit certificates have become more and more popular, have stamps and signatures, and are more difficult to identify. “So we do not know what the actual number of fake certificates is,” he said. Of course, vaccine batch numbers now have a watermark, which can make them easier to identify. However, according to pharmacists, one solution would be the electronic register of vaccine batches, to which pharmacists would also have access.

“Also, the Robert Koch Epidemiological Institute still does not have the personal data of all those vaccinated. This would facilitate the comparison. “However, this poses obstacles to the protection of personal data,” said Walter. At the same time the counterfeiters are moving at a fast pace. As pharmacy controls improve, so do digital QR codes.

Lisa Henell

Edited by: Dimitra Kyranoudi

DW

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