By Sneha Sharma
Sneha is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Politics, Philosophy, & Economics and minoring in Healthcare Management, Biological Basis of Behavior, and Engineering Entrepreneurship.
“Moderna or Pfizer?” Long gone are the days of hugs and kisses as greetings. Instead, on Locust, we see Penn students have found a new conversation starter.
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on 2020, and almost exactly a year ago sending most Penn students home, it makes sense that inoculation is a large development and life update. However, not all the students getting vaccinated are eligible for the vaccine.
At the moment, Philadelphia’s COVID-19 vaccine centers are meant to aid in the Phase 1A and Phase 1B distribution of vaccinations to city residents . These phases are meant to apply to hospital staff, first responders, childcare workers, education providers, people ages 75 and older, people with high risk-medical conditions, and other at-risk individuals. However, there is a link that is meant to be invite-only spreading around to individuals who might not otherwise be eligible.
Those who apply can even request anonymity in the application and book an appointment online bypassing the eligibility check. Some people in the vaccine operation still choose to look at the silver lining that around 6000 doses are being administered daily, meaning high-risk individuals who were previously underserved are finally getting their doses . Yet it begs the questions, what are the legal implications for those who lie? And what should we do?
States like California have struggled with managing the eligibility requirements, but others like Utah have promised consequences for those trying to game it . KSL in Utah found that there could potentially be a financial penalty for individuals when lying to get the vaccine. When informing one’s county health department about a health issue to gain eligibility, a person risks getting that purported ailment permanently associated with the health record . Having this medical history shared with life insurance could mean higher insurance premiums in the future.
While that is one method of checking the legitimacy of those getting the COVID-19 vaccination, this territory is still uncharted for the most part. There is no overarching federal law that dictates repercussions, so most states have been left to their own devices to navigate this challenge. New York, on the one hand, is implementing Governor-backed initiatives to establish laws and proposals that prohibit the administration or sale of vaccine shots to those who are trying to “skip ahead” . Providers can lose their licenses and get fined up to $1M if found to have fraudulently administered vaccines. In Florida, state lawmakers are working to criminalize vaccine fraud attempts .
The pandemic has shown Americans that we cannot allow for “the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” as the process designed around priority groups has great benefit of protecting the most vulnerable population. It is true that more flexibility limits access to those who need it, but, in pandemics like this, how do we call for the better angels of ourselves? Similarly, are healthy people objecting to vulnerable populations, with comorbidities like diabetes or smoke induced ailments, getting into priority groups right in their objection because of health choices each has made in the past?
Even with mask mandates, lawmakers and the public alike debated the rights that protect our liberty and freedom to choose. With issues of vaccination, asking for verification of all sorts, to ward off a few cheaters, could prove a slippery slope and slow down the goals of reaching herd immunity sooner. While the Department of Justice has set up a National Hotline to discuss issues of “Disaster Fraud,” when it comes to dealing with this legally, a streamlined process does not exist. Most people follow the honor system, and the public encouragement of that behavior is likely the most reliable act for building a better and healthier society.
 Murrell, David. “Here's Where to Get a COVID Vaccination in Philly.” Philadelphia Magazine. Philadelphia Magazine, April 22, 2021. https://www.phillymag.com/news/covid-19-vaccines-philadelphia-guide/.
 Ho, C. (2021, January 26). Why California is moving to an Age-based system for Coronavirus vaccine priority. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/California-to-adopt-age-based-criteria-for-15899489.php
 Matt Gephardt, K. (2021, March 02). Gephardt: Lying to get A COVID-19 vaccine could prove costly. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://www.ksl.com/article/50117430/gephardt-lying-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine-could-prove-costly
 Murrell, D. (2021, April 02). Here's where to get a covid vaccination in Philly. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://www.phillymag.com/news/covid-19-vaccines-philadelphia-guide/
 Person. (2020, December 28). Coronavirus NY: State will FINE $1M for Coronavirus vaccine fraud. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://abc7ny.com/parcare-vaccine-fraud-attorney-general-ny-covid/9143911/
 Sbg. (2021, February 12). Vaccine cheats: AT-RISK Americans wait as rich and connected skip ahead FOR covid-19 shots. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://local12.com/news/coronavirus/could-we-see-a-covid-19-vaccine-black-market
The opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.