Vaccination records: Vaccinated, recovered or forged


Status: 14.12.2021 6:00 a.m.

Are forged vaccination records a case for the police? Many pharmacists are evidently insecure and fear that they will violate their professional secrecy. The consequences could be serious.

By Florian Flade and Markus Grill, WDR / NDR

Maximilian Wilke stands in his pharmacy in the Lichtenberg S-Bahn station in the east of Berlin. Outside people are singing Christmas carols, inside they are queuing up. Many want to have digital vaccination certificates issued. Only with this proof of a complete vaccination or a recovery can you currently visit a restaurant or a museum in Berlin due to the 2G regulation.

“At the beginning you were still euphoric,” says Wilke. He tells how he discovered the first forged vaccination records. Sometimes the information about the alleged vaccination center or the doctor’s office did not match, sometimes a call to the manufacturing company revealed that the batch numbers of the vaccination doses did not even exist. The effort to identify such forgeries is sometimes very great – and time-consuming for Wilke and his colleagues.

The Berlin pharmacist has now issued thousands of certificates and identified numerous forgeries. How many there were, he can only guess. “Maybe five to ten percent,” says Wilke.

Those caught react differently

A few weeks ago, Wilke reported the forgeries to the police on a regular basis – sometimes several times a day. There were strange scenes. Some customers who tried to obtain digital vaccination certificates in this way ran out of the pharmacy out of fear. Others tried to argue, got angry, even aggressive.

Pharmacist Wilke has had very different experiences with counterfeiters.

Image: Markus Grill, NDR / WDR

In another branch in Berlin, says Wilke, the issuing of digital certificates has now been completely stopped. A customer there who had presented a forged vaccination certificate had recently stormed into the back room of the pharmacy and attacked an employee.

“Today we don’t advertise any more,” says Wilke, slightly resigned, in the pharmacy in the S-Bahn station. The reason: In his opinion, there is no clear legal situation. “It is not clearly regulated whether we are not violating professional secrecy for pharmacists with such a report to the police,” said Wilke.

Bandage is covered

The Federal Association of German Pharmacists’ Associations (ABDA), one of the most powerful lobby organizations in the health care sector and never actually reluctant to take clear positions on pharmacist matters, remains vague on request. Should pharmacists call the police if they have falsified vaccination records? For ABDA spokesman Rainer Kern this is “at the discretion of every pharmacist”. There is “no clear rule,” says Kern. “That is why we cannot give a general recommendation on this.” The only thing that is clear is that pharmacists are not allowed to create a digital certificate in the event of obvious falsifications.

At the beginning of December, the “Pharmazeutische Zeitung” gave various lawyers a chance to speak; Submitting an immediate criminal complaint to the police is “often not advisable,” according to the trade journal. It is true that the Chamber of Pharmacists of Saxony has reached an agreement with the Ministry of Social Affairs in Dresden, according to which pharmacists should go unpunished if they call the police in the case of falsified vaccination certificates. However, the Bavarian Chamber of Pharmacists advises “to seek advice from the public prosecutor’s office” beforehand. The chamber’s lawyer, however, has “the greatest understanding” for all pharmacists for whom this is “too cumbersome”.

Problem not known to the ministry

The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) is apparently not even aware of the problem. The ministry has “no evidence that pharmacies would not display forged vaccination cards”. Still, take the request from NDR, WDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung” now on the “occasion to follow up on these indications”.

But what kind of people are they who come to the pharmacy with forged vaccination certificates? “It goes all the way through society,” says pharmacist Wilke. According to his observation, young and old, people with and without a migration background, but slightly more men than women. A depressed person was also there, who was very afraid of injections, says Wilke. “I didn’t report him, just told him that I couldn’t issue a certificate for his fake vaccination certificate. I suspect he then tried another pharmacy.”

Legal loophole has been closed

For a long time, the public prosecutor’s offices also viewed the phenomenon of falsified vaccination certificates very differently. Only the revised Infection Protection Act, which came into force at the end of November, has actually closed this legal loophole, according to some public prosecutors. Now, not only the production and the trade, but also the presentation of forged vaccination passports is undoubtedly a criminal offense. And thus the number of procedures should also increase nationwide.

For Wilke and his colleagues, however, the stricter legal situation is only partially a consolation. It is still mainly pharmacies that are confronted with forged vaccination passports – and have to find out whether it is genuine evidence or not. Wilke points out that there was actually a lack of staff and time. If he suspects a forged vaccination certificate today, he just sends people away. “I address them very briskly and say they shouldn’t come back.”

“We provide people with health. That is actually our main business,” said Wilke. Since the pharmacist has known how many fake vaccination cards are in circulation, this has also had an impact on his private life. “I hardly ever go to restaurants,” says the pharmacist. “I consider the 2G regulation to be a sham security. Actually, this 2G is a 3G: vaccinated, recovered or counterfeited.”

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