I have a fake COVID-19 vaccine card. My best friend won’t speak to me. Don’t I have the right to make these decisions for myself?

I’m not sure this is a question for the Moneyist, but here goes. I’m 34, I live alone, and I have not gotten vaccinated. Here’s my issue: I have a fake vaccine card that I only very occasionally flash to get into bars and restaurants. I choose restaurants that I know are not crowded, and I am in the age group that has only relatively mild symptoms from COVID-19.

I have a friend who had bad side effects from the vaccine — elevated heart rate — and it put me off getting one. I have a “never say never” approach. I don’t go out that much, but I will obviously be meeting friends and family over Christmas. My family knows I’m not vaccinated. They have made their decision about whether they want to see me, and they have no problem with that.

‘My family knows I’m not vaccinated. They made their decision about whether they want to see me, and they have no problem with that. I just want to get through 2022 with as little hassle as possible.’

I’m fed up with the coronavirus, I’m fed up with the government telling me what to do, and I’m fed up with omicron. My best friend told me she didn’t want to see me if I was going to use a fake vaccine card. She is vaccinated. But she won’t even see me outside, and she has other friends who are not vaccinated whom she has met for walks in the park, and drinks and stuff.

I want to get through 2022 with as little hassle as possible, and the pandemic has made my anxiety 10 times worse. I barely use the card, only when I really need it. Is that really so bad? The way she went on, you would swear I had robbed a bank, or worse. I said cutting me off was not the answer to a problem, and not a way to treat our friendship.

Another Christmas Canceled

Dear Canceled,

We’re all fed up. As the second Christmas of the pandemic came and went, millions of people are feeling pandemic fatigue and wondering how long more it would continue — and yet cases have reached a new seven-day high. COVID-19 has killed 818,444 Americans. There is a daily average of 301,472 new cases in the U.S., up 153% over two weeks, according to the New York Times tracker.

Rather than think about how your friend is treating you, think about those figures and how you are treating people who don’t know you are unvaccinated. They are gathering in a place that requires vaccine cards and, as such, where they have reduced the risk of contracting coronavirus. By entering under false pretenses, you have chosen to violate their trust.

We can only get through this if we wear masks, socially distance and get vaccinated. People have a choice to either get vaccinated or not. Choosing the latter and then using a fake vaccine card is not the answer to your anxiety, dealing with a public-health crisis responsibly, or handling a friendship. You are rolling the dice for yourself, but — worse — you are also rolling the dice for other people.

As for the vaccine side effects: A miniscule percentage of people have serious adverse events. The vast majority of people experience tiredness, a sore arm, headache, and/or muscle pain. Read this data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you think those potential side effects are an inconvenience, try spending two weeks in bed with COVID-19, losing your taste and smell, or being the reason a beloved older relative ends up on a ventilator.

You want people to respect your decision not to get vaccinated, but you are not giving others that same respect: You are not giving them all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Now for the legal and financial part: Using a fake vaccine card is a federal crime. The cards carry two federal seals: one from the CDC and the other from the Department of Health and Human Services. Forging vaccine cards, a crime that has been on the rise since President Biden’s vaccine mandate, could result in prison time. You may not get sent to prison, but you could lose your job.

Fake vaccine cards capitalize on people’s fear about science, and anger about the pandemic and the government’s response. The typical cost of a fake vaccine card with the CDC logo was $100 on Sept. 2. The day after Biden’s Sept. 9 announcement that he would mandate vaccines for federal workers, the price doubled to $200, according to Check Point Software Technologies.

The coronavirus is exploiting the lack of herd immunity and pockets of unvaccinated people to find ways to mutate and spread. The phony vaccine card manufacturers are exploiting the fears and resentments of unvaccinated Americans who want to cheat and/or game the public healthcare system, and vulnerable people most at risk. And you are exploiting the trust of people you encounter in public spaces.

The coronavirus is exploiting the pockets of unvaccinated people to mutate and survive. The phony vaccine card manufacturers are exploiting the fears and resentments of unvaccinated Americans.

Over 800,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. That’s higher than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1918 influenza. Vaccinations have been shown to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and early research suggests the omicron variant can evade immunity from two vaccine doses or past infection, highlighting the importance of a booster dose.

The person you infect may not come down with a serious illness, but what about their friend’s brother’s grandmother or next-door neighbor? I believe vaccinated people should respect the decision of those who decide not to get vaccinated. But the problem here is you are not giving people that same courtesy: You are not giving them all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Your more vulnerable and elderly family members appear to have given you a green light for the holiday parties. By virtue that you are a daughter or granddaughter, you have goodwill and emotional leverage in that relationship. Forcing your family to choose between you and a vaccine puts you at an unfair advantage. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, don’t do it. But why put other people at risk?

If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your right. We all have to make that decision for ourselves. So take your chances, and stay home. By visiting family and going to bars and restaurants, you are giving the virus a pathway to spread. At least be honest with yourself about that. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your broken friendship should be the least of your — and our — worries.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

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