ORLANDO, Fla (FNN) – Amid a rising number of cases where people have been presenting fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, State Representative Michael Grieco (D-113) filed a bill this week seeking to create criminal penalties on fake vaccine certificates.
The proliferation of fake vaccine cards, which some websites sell for between $50 and $200–one even offered one at $750–is already alarming enough for the federal government.
“We are seeing it be widespread, and part of that is because it’s being done across social media and e-commerce, where anybody who might run into it could become a participant in it,”, one official of the Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General told ABC News recently, warning that it exposes personal information and certainly risks worsening the pandemic.
Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a public warning stating that not only “by misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19,” but also, “the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal (such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) is a crime, and may be punishable under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws.”
For Rep. Grieco, the ranking Democratic member of the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee of the Florida House, that’s not enough where Florida is concerned. “Unless the world is filled with FBI agents that I’m not aware of, your local police officer can’t enforce federal law, it’s not within their jurisdiction. You’re not going to find a cop that’s going to enforce the federal code”, he explained to FNN.
He used drug laws as an example. “If you have cocaine, a local police officer can arrest you, and if you have enough of it, it becomes a federal offense and then they bring in the feds.”
“If you are trying to get on, say, a cruise ship and you’re in possession of a fake vaccine card, and that is a federal violation because it is essentially forging the CDC logo, but unless there is a federal law officer there, there is nothing anybody can do about it, besides taking it away from you,” he added.
Grieco also added that it is a third-degree felony to have a fake driver’s license or to forge prescription pads. “If those two things are felonies, why should it not be a felony to, I don’t know, put your kid in school and pretend your kid is fully vaccinated for a bunch of things that all the other kids are vaccinated for?”
In May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 2006, which “codifies the prohibition of COVID-19 vaccine passports”, a bill Rep. Grieco strongly opposed.
“What that bill did was that it made it illegal for a business to require vaccine verification before entry or service, even in the private sector”, he said. “What it did not do was prevent employers to make vaccine verification a condition of employment. There is nothing in state law that prevents that. There is nothing in state law to prevent entities to say, ‘Hey if you’re not vaccinated, you have to wear a mask.’ Same thing for employers, same thing for the NFL. If anyone were to test this they’d probably win. The cruise ships have already had. You cannot get on a Norwegian cruise line or a Disney cruise without proof of vaccination. Period, end of the story. Governor or no governor.”
Grieco also added that “you can call it vaccine passports because it makes a nice headline, or you can call it vaccine verification but it has too many syllables”, but in a way, they already exist.
“Every time a kid goes to public school, they have to provide proof of vaccination. It’s the same thing. It’s been going on for decades. It’s how we ended polio. It’s not that complicated”.
He also considers 2006 “absolutely, ridiculously hypocritical. [They’re] the same majority that runs around and talks about the free market, lowering regulations, and deregulating, and then coming up with this regulation. It is one of the most hypocritical things I have seen in government.”
“You can’t say you love democracy when you only love it when it works for you. And the same thing goes for free markets. You can’t talk about deregulations and free markets, and then also put on regulations, because those are the regulations that you want, because it panders to your base voter,” he added.
Grieco pointed out that a majority of Americans support proof of vaccination to travel by plane (57 percent, according to Gallup) and large events (55 percent). “But the minority that doesn’t support that are far-right base voters, and this is one of those things that appeal to them.”
Grieco hopes his proposed bill gets a hearing, and said that several people in the Senate have offered Senate sponsorship. “But this is one of those things that people don’t want to talk about. But people are dying, Floridians are dying. We’re breaking all sorts of records. We’re number one in the country right now in COVID rates. We are not doing well. Let’s sweep it under the [rug], let’s talk about Afghanistan or the border wall.”
He insists that treatment and prevention should be given equal importance, quoting a tweet he sent out last week. “Pushing monoclonal therapy without mentioning vaccines is like going straight to chemotherapy and forgetting to tell people to stop smoking.”
“We should be focused on prevention as much as we are focused on treatment. We should be talking about both, especially when treatment comes from a major donor [to governor DeSantis],” he said.
Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News. | email@example.com