NEWS

Profiting from Covid, vaccine denialism

profiting-from-covid-vaccine-denialism

Prosecutors investigating cases of fake Covid vaccination and testing certificates, at the urging of the Supreme Court’s chief prosecutor, have uncovered far more than that. 

Pandemic and vaccination deniers, egged on by lawyers who may be deniers themselves or motivated by profit, have been targeting doctors and other health personnel, including coroners, with numerous lawsuits accusing them of lying about the existence of the coronavirus and of faking death certificates.

These lawsuits may sound frivolous, but have consequences beyond the harassment endured by overworked health personnel. In at least two cases, panels of judges have agreed to demands by the lawyers filing the lawsuits and ordered exhumations, ignoring the medical records and the opinion of the prosecutors themselves who had initially denied the motions.

The situation reminds some of the infamous lower court opinion that swindler Artemis Sorras had enough money in his possession to pay off the country’s debt. The swindler was finally convicted and jailed, but the initial decision had emboldened him.

Denialists have also made use of the Internet, telling their thousands of followers in online forums not to get vaccinated and even to refuse hospitalization. Prosecutors are poised to charge at least some of them with forming criminal gangs.

Fake vaccination certificates and test results are the more common ways in which denialists, or simply people out for a quick profit, act.

Such certificates have been so far found in seven Greek regions, starting with a health center in the region of Thessaly. The case is still under investigation but the person who issued the fake certificates has been connected to at least two hospitals, in the northern cities of Thessaloniki and Kozani. And an increasing number of personnel seem to be implicated, at least five in Thessaloniki and three in Kozani.

At a hospital in the western city of Mesolongi, a doctor took a sample from one person, who tested negative, and used the result to issue a certificate to a third person. In Santorini, a hotel employee procured fake certificates from the local health center on behalf of European clients who wanted to show them upon returning home. In Kavala, northern Greece, meanwhile, the local hospital decided that 10 employees will be subjected to antibody testing because there are suspicions they submitted fake vaccination certificates.

It is still too early to know the extent of the fraud, but the issue was deemed serious enough to call upon the police’s own internal investigation department, which is authorized to also investigate all public servants. The department is conducting a separate investigation from that of the prosecutors.

It is not only local employees who provide fake certificates. International websites also advertise such services to Greek internet users. One such page, created on August 30 and which already numbers 87,000 followers, claims to provide “authentic” certificates with active QR codes. Such pages typically ask for $200-$250 for a fake Covid-19 vaccination certificate.