INVESTIGATION: Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates at the Price of “two green banknotes”

INVESTIGATION: Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates at the Price of “two green banknotes”
06 September 2021 | 12:11

Vaccination against COVID-19 has become indispensable in the time of pandemics. Although immunization is not mandatory, the coronavirus vaccination certificate grants its holders the opportunity to access the European Union space, as it is recognized by the Member States or associates. The vaccination certificate gives you, as such, the freedom to travel again, and for this “luxury” some opponents of immunization seek to obtain certificates, without being vaccinated. And as any type of demand produces an offer, a new “profession” has appeared on the market – forger of fake COVID-19 vaccination certificate.

ZdG managed to obtain a fake vaccination certificate, the reporter being officially entered by a healthcare worker in the COVID-19 Vaccination Registry. It happened on the day when the authorities reported over 10,000 people vaccinated in a 24-hour period and despite the fact that the reporter had been immunized against the virus in May, in Romania. The Public Medical-Sanitary Institution Soldanesti Health Center issued the document for 4,000 lei, and the fictitious serum “administered” is Johnson & Johnson. Health authorities describe the falsification of certificates related to COVID-19 as a crime and say that healthcare professionals who admit such situations must be punished, because, in addition to discrediting the vaccination campaign, they threaten human health.

ZdG has recently received information that there are people who prefer to pay for a fake COVID-19 vaccination certificate rather than to get the free COVID-19 vaccine. Invoking the fact that we intend to travel abroad and are against vaccination, ZdG found a person who “vaccinated” us and issued us a certificate that allows us to pass the filters of the authorities both in Moldova and at the border. We also managed to obtain a European Union digital certificate, with visible signs of forgery, registered at a vaccination center in a suburb of Paris. 

It costs two green banknotes.”

While documenting the subject, ZdG spoke to dozens of people who know some information about the false vaccination either from relatives, who requested this “service”, or from people in their entourage. From our interlocutors, we found out that the buyers of documents certifying false vaccinations do so because they need to present a vaccination certificate at work or out of the desire to travel. Those who resort to this type of scam pay between 200 and 4,000 lei. There is even healthcare staff among the falsely vaccinated, and healthcare authorities admit it.

Any person from Moldova who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 is entered in the COVID-19 Vaccination Registry. The Registry shall contain the personal data of the vaccinated person, the name of the serum injected and the dose series, the day of immunization, and the institution where the vaccination was carried out. Based on this Registry, vaccination certificates are generated in electronic format, which can be downloaded from the national platform www.vaccinare.gov.md. A limited number of people have access to this internal registry. Although the vaccine is administered in village hospitals as well, the healthcare staff there cannot access the Registry. In the villages, the data of those vaccinated are recorded on paper, later it is transmitted to the vaccination centers for entry into the Registry.

A man named Ion (name changed, ed. note) acted as an intermediary in getting the vaccination certificate for ZdG. I got his contact data from a person whom, quite by chance, I asked if he knew anyone who would help us obtain a vaccination certificate, without immunization. Ion easily agreed to sell us a certificate for 4,000 lei.

Reporter: I got your number from ### .

Ion: Yes. When are you going to travel?

Reporter: We planned for the beginning of September, but now we are thinking about the second half of September.

Ion: I understood you want one… namely Johnson. A single vaccine dose.

Reporter: Sure. One dose is much better, not to go for two times.

Ion: Do you know the price?

Reporter: No. He said we should settle all issues with you.

Ion: Two. It costs two green banknotes.

You will say that you visited a friend and decided to go and get vaccinated together.”

Modeled on the scheme for buying fake certificates for detecting COVID-19 of which ZdG wrote in March, when we bought a document for 300 lei, the intermediary of the vaccination certificate asked us to send him an ID photo via Viber. He also informed us that the certificate will be valid after 14 days from the entry of the data in the COVID-19 Vaccination Registry.

Ion: You should send via Viber a picture of your ID on both sides; we’ll try. If everything goes fine, the certificate will be valid after 14 days. It’s done properly, only it will be valid after 14 days. You will not need any other certificate when you leave the country. 

The man assured us that the vaccination certificate will be “original” and will be made in Șoldănești district. He also recommended that we say, in case we are checked, that we visited a friend in Șoldănești and we got vaccinated together.

Reporter: Do you do them? Are you from healthcare?

Ion: I do not do them. But they are original. You don’t get the vaccine, but you are entered in the Registry, as requested.

Reporter:  Do we have to meet?

Ion: No. You just send the photos (of the ID – ed. note) and I send them further. When the certificate is ready, I call you, we meet and you give me the money. 

Reporter: How do I pay?

Ion: I told you. We’ll meet so that you get your certificate and I get the money. You may pay ###. .
Ion: It was easier to do them some time before, now it is more difficult, but we shall see, maybe we can do it.

Reporter: When will it be ready?

Ion: I can’t say. I cannot guarantee. I’ll do my best. If it is possible, I’ll try to do it faster, it can be ready by the beginning of September. Are you from Chișinău?

Reporter: I live in Chișinău.

Ion: If anything, because the certificate will be issued in a different place, you should say you visited a friend and got vaccinated together there. 

Reporter: Where exactly, so I should know?

Ion: In Șoldănești. It doesn’t matter. In case they ask, you should say you have a friend in Șoldănești and you visited him and went to get vaccinated together. 

Reporter: Okay. I’ll send you the data and we’ll talk later. 

Ion: Sure. Remember – two green banknotes.

Reporter: Two green stands for four in normal currency? (4,000 lei – ed. note)

Ion: Yes, yes. 

 The next day, the man told us that he was leaving for the certificate and asked us to give him 4,000 lei. In the meantime, I checked the platform www.vaccinare.gov.md and found that the ZdG reporter is entered in the COVID-19 Vaccination Registry and can download the certificate attesting that she was vaccinated. Next, I told the intermediary that I did not have the promised money and we agreed to meet for the payment on Tuesday, August 31st.

He confirms, but then denies the sale of the certificate: “I haven’t done anything. I have no certificates.”

On Tuesday morning, the man sent the vaccination certificate, stamped and signed by Constantin Balanici, the head of the Șoldănești Healthcare Center, to the person from whom we got his contacts and asked us to send him the money. The reporter contacted Ion, who confirmed that he delivered the certificate. However, after we told him that we were journalists, he denied that he had mediated the obtaining of the document, declaring that he had never discussed it with us.

Reporter: You called on ###  today and gave him the certificate.

Ion: Yes, sure. I left it there, did you get it? 

Reporter: As a matter of fact, I work for ZdG. I’m a journalist.

Ion: Pardon?

Reporter: I work for ZdG,, I’m a journalist and I investigate how one can buy a fake vaccination certificate. 

Ion: You must have misunderstood something. What certificate are you talking about?

Reporter: You don’t know which certificate? The one you left at ###. You did it for V. B.

Ion: I don’t know anything. I haven’t done anything. 

Reporter: You have obtained a certificate for me and I have to pay 4,000 lei for it.

Ion: I haven’t done anything. I have no certificates.

Reporter: Are you sure? You gave it to ### this morning.

Ion: Which ###? You probably mixed something up. I have never said it. There is probably a mistake.

Where are fake vaccines made?

The false vaccination of the ZdG reporter was carried out on August 25, the day the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection reported that 10,690 persons were vaccinated against COVID-19, of which 5,718 with the first dose and 4,972 with the second. The certificate contains the fictitious Johnson & Johnson serum vaccination data, the day of vaccination, and the vaccine batch number. The certificate does not indicate the place where the fictitious vaccination was done. However, ZdG found that it appears in the database as being registered at the Șoldănești Healthcare Center, which receives the data on all vaccination done in this district.

On Tuesday, August 31, we went to Șoldănești, where Alina Popovici, the person in charge of entering the data in the register, informed us that only she and one more person, who was on vacation since the beginning of August, can access the register, and they receive the data on vaccines injected in village hospitals on paper, via various telephone applications or dictated by telephone.

They send the data from the villages, where the nurses vaccinate, by phone, Viber or Messenger. I record the data on the phone or the superior assistant prints it, brings it to me and I record it. Then the nurses come and get the certificates. I’m just recording the data. I don’t even have access to the vaccine refrigerator. We only record data, including that from villages. They (the healthcare staff – ed. note) send me the sheets containing the vaccine, the name and surname, year of birth, the IDNP, and telephone number of the vaccinated person. This is the procedure, they send it to me, and I record the data,” she told us.

Together with the person in charge of entering the data in the register, we checked the lists received from the villages but did not find the name of the fictional vaccinated ZdG reporter. Alina Popovici admits that the data was transmitted by telephone. “Sometimes the nurse calls me and tells me that she has registered 10 vaccines. If I’m not busy and I’m in front of the computer, I enter the data into the register,” she told us.

The head of the Șoldănești Healthcare Center: “We will analyze the internal registers.”

Constantin Balanici, the head of the Șoldănești Healthcare Center, told us that an internal investigation will be carried out to find out the forger of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate, issued to the ZdG reporter.

I will come up with a comment on this situation after we conduct an internal investigation. As of tomorrow (Wednesday, September 1 – ed. note), we will start the checks. We will analyze the internal registers and find out who did this. I find it hard to believe that it is true because it discredits the medical profession,” Constantin Balanici told us.

The network of false vaccination certificates on the Telegram

While investigating the subject, ZdG found that false vaccination certificates can also be obtained online. “Assistance in receiving the COVID-19 test & certificate to travel abroad at a lower price, and without going through control, within 1 or 24 hours”, runs the description of the group Laborator.md, created on the Russian platform Telegram, considered one of the most secure messaging applications in the world.

After a short discussion with the channel administrator, we agreed to buy a certificate for 150 euros. We offered an advance payment of 200 lei, and the administrator promised to send us the QR code of the certificate before transferring the full amount. Twenty-four hours after I sent him my ID photos, I received a picture of a Pfizer vaccination certificate and a negative coronavirus test. The certificate said the two doses of Pfizer were injected on July 19, although the doses must be administered 21 days apart. The person who sent us the documents explained that it was an E.U. digital certificate and it was registered in a suburb of Paris. However, the document shows visible signs of falsification.

The director of the clinic Pediatrica: “This phenomenon damages our image”

Officially, Laborator.md is part of the clinic Pediatrica and has been operating since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mariana Rusu, the director of the clinic, claims that the institution she runs has nothing to do with the Telegram group Laborator.md and states that they notified the police after there were reported several cases of forgery in documents related to COVID-19, issued on behalf of the clinic.

They falsified our tests a lot, namely when crossing the Romanian border, which accepted antigen tests, and our patients and our acquaintances reported that drivers had such tests in the car for all passengers. Subsequently, complaints came from the border, including from the airport, as well as from other borders, in which some tests were indeed falsified and I testified on these cases. We did the expertise and, yes, the tests were falsified. These patients were not in our database. So it is a phenomenon that damages our image, but first of all, it is, let’s say, tax evasion by those who do so,” said Mariana Rusu, the director of Pediatrica.

At the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova, they “throw the vaccine in the garbage bin” for 200 lei.

While documenting the subject, several ZdG readers told us that at the vaccination center of the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova doctors would record false vaccinations, and the serum is poured into the sink. “I know people who came to the vaccination center and, at the time of vaccination, told the doctor that they don’t want the vaccine; they secretly pay 200 lei and the healthcare person throws the vaccine into the garbage bin, issuing a certificate,” a reader told us.

Based on the collected information, we decided to carry out an experiment and went to the Academy, with the intention to obtain a vaccination certificate without receiving the serum dose. After our data was entered in a register and we passed the medical check-up, we were redirected to the healthcare person who administers the vaccines. Hearing that we do not want to be vaccinated, but only want a certificate, the nurse refused to do it and, together with Cristina Boclinca, epidemiologist and coordinator of the Municipal Vaccination Center tried to convince us to get the vaccine.

You should get the vaccine. You won’t regret it. There is only one dose. At work, they will ask you for the vaccination certificate,” they told us.

Municipal Vaccination Center coordinator: “I hope my colleagues didn’t do dirty things.”

Cristina Boclinca told us that people who want to receive vaccination certificates without being vaccinated come to this vaccination center daily, and their flow has increased after information about such practice appeared in the public space.

It is painful for us, healthcare workers, to be intimidated in such ways. Personally, I find it very difficult to admit that such things can happen in the center. I stand guard both on the first and on the second floor, I stand guard and watch them, I constantly talk to people who do such things. I try to persuade them to get vaccinated. If they still refuse, I ask them to leave; at the door, we cancel the certificates and get back to work,” the Center coordinator told us.

We asked Cristina Boclinca if she is sure that no fake vaccination certificates have been issued in the center she coordinates since June 1. She expressed hope that her colleagues did not do “dirty things”. “I can answer only for the period since I’ve undertaken to run the institution. What was in the past, I cannot say. I don’t know. I was not in the institution to monitor the situation then. I hope my colleagues didn’t do dirty things. I’m sure everything is in order since I’m the manager,” commented Cristina Boclinca.

We went to the Territorial Medical Association Center and the University Center for Medical Rehabilitation where, likewise, the healthcare staff refused to give us vaccination certificates, without receiving the serum dose.

Ninel Revenco: “The healthcare worker who admitted it must be punished.”

Ninel Revenco, the coordinator of the Communication Campaign on COVID-19 Vaccination, describes the falsification of coronavirus-related documents as a crime and says that healthcare workers who admit such situations must be punished, because, in addition to discrediting the coronavirus vaccination campaign, they threaten human health.

This is a sensitive issue for healthcare staff. In my opinion, it is inadmissible and incompatible with the activity of a healthcare worker. This not only discredits the vaccination campaign but also harms the patients’ health. This is a forgery and it must be punished. Once the person is vaccinated, they are protected. But if one is vaccinated only on paper, the person is not protected and the risk of getting into intensive care and dying increases exponentially. In this case, the healthcare worker who admitted the situation must be punished. If one knows such cases, one is obliged to notify the authorities, including the criminal investigation authorities,” says Ninel Revenco.

When asked about possible false vaccinations among healthcare staff, she said: “I can neither deny nor confirm it as long as we do not have the results of a severe internal investigation.”

Minister of Health: “We found very suspicious things that specialists have to deal with.”

Ala Nemerenco, Minister of Health, informed us that the institution she runs has started an internal investigation after information about the forgery of vaccination certificates appeared in the public space. Subsequently, because they did not have enough leverage, the representatives of the Ministry notified the General Prosecutor’s Office and the National Anticorruption Center.

We addressed the issue of false certificates because this has long been discussed in society. We have received information, but it is very difficult to verify it. We are conducting an internal investigation. We found many suspicious issues and we addressed the Prosecutor’s Office and the National Anticorruption Center. We can’t send a panel of experts to analyze; this is a much more serious matter. At the Ministry, we do not have enough capacity. We just checked our information systems and found suspicious things; now the specialists have to deal with it. The investigative bodies will come and select all the names to launch a specialized investigation. The Ministry, together with the bodies, are carrying out another type of investigation,” Ala Nemerenco told us.

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