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Sep 14, 2021

Laminating Vaccine Passes is Big Business, but is It Tampering?

October 1st has become a new deadline for people to think about. On that day, Belizeans will have to present proof they are vaccinated, or a negative COVID test to enter all public access buildings. News Five’s Isani Cayetano takes a look tonight at how some are making their vaccination cards smaller and more durable, and concerns about how easy they might be to fake.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The latest decision taken by the Briceno administration in the fight against COVID-19 is a mandate that requires the use of vaccination cards for persons entering various buildings that are considered to be public spaces.  These include government offices, as well as grocery stores.  It’s an obligation that comes into force on October first, along with a new statutory instrument.  While the decision is being criticized in some corners, the business community is embracing the economic opportunity that has arisen.


Giovanni Alamilla

Giovanni Alamilla, Proprietor, Stationery House

“When they started the vaccine campaign we had noticed the big cards that they were giving.  So we were laminating some of those for people and then we suggested, why don’t you try to minimize it so it could be put in your wallet or your purse. It’s a lot easier.”


The convenience of having a smaller vaccination card in one’s possession has created significant demand for laminates.  It’s a five-minute process that involves taking a color copy of the actual pass, shrinking it to a desired size and covering it in a thin sheet of plastic.


Giovanni Alamilla

“We took it another step further where we started putting a copy of the social [security information] on the back of the card.  So you have the information from the vaccination on one side and then the social on the other side, where if you are questioned about your vaccination, “Okay, this is my card.”  You flip it over to prove that it is your card.”


Perhaps it’s the most flagrant manifestation of the so-called new normal, having to present your vaccination status in order to gain access to places that did not, before now, require anyone to do so.  But is the government over reaching in compelling the public and private sectors to require this piece of information upfront? We asked Attorney Andrew Marshalleck.


Andrew Marshalleck

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney-at-law

“Obviously, the risk to public health, the health of the majority of people has been assessed and they think it’s warranted.  The lawfulness of any regulations proposed will turn on the reasonableness of those regulations and the proportionality of the decision that is the proportion the regulations bear to the objectives they seek to accomplish.  And so long as it is done in a reasonable and proportional way, the state has power in our constitution to make those kinds of regulations to protect public health.”


Those wanting to protect themselves and others are already in line to get their cards to be laminated, and demand is growing.  Ahead of the looming deadline, business has been steady.


Giovanni Alamilla

“Since last week, we’re getting somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty people a day because of that October first S.I.  It definitely has increased the foot traffic in here.”


But as it stands, the oversized vaccination card lacks any security features.  Unlike our paper currency, there is no watermark or seal to protect it from forgery.


Giovanni Alamilla

“We’re not altering it in any way, we’re just minimizing it.  We’re not changing any of the information on it.  The serial number on the card is still legible.  All the information is still legible with the stamp from Ministry of Health, everything is still there.  It’s just adding a convenience where, again, you can put it in your wallet.”


Duplicating and altering the existing card, however, is as easy as scanning and importing the image into Adobe Photoshop where it can then be modified accordingly.  Fraudulent duplication has been a concern for the Ministry of Health and Wellness, but little has been done to make the card safe.  Beyond the security of the document, attorney Andrew Marshalleck argues that the move to require a vaccine pass is a global direction.


Andrew Marshalleck

“Conceptually, that kind of conduct can be the subject of regulation.  There’s nothing conceptually wrong with it.  The particular regulations, the extent to which it goes and the reasonableness of it will determine in the end whether it passes the requisite constitutional standards or not.  But the way I see things going, the whole world is moving in that direction. It’s not unique to Belize.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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