Fake Covid-19 vaccine certificates sell like hot cakes in Soweto & Joburg CBD: Nurses explain how it works


Rogue healthcare workers, officials and scammers are making a killing in Gauteng producing and selling fraudulent Covid-19 vaccine certificates from Soweto to the Johannesburg CBD.

Sowetan spoke to six sources who are part of the syndicates operating from public clinics in Soweto, who collude with scammers that operate from dingy shops in the Joburg CBD.

A certificate can cost between R400 and R3,000 for those who do not want to be jabbed but need the certificate for work purposes. The syndicates are pocketing huge sums of money as many workers are required to produce vaccination certificates by their employers as most companies are starting to allow people back into offices.

According to the syndicate, their biggest clients are people employed in retail, restaurants, the banking sector and call centre agencies.

The scam is conducted in two ways, with the most common and cheapest one involving the services of a vaccinator who works from a clinic.

The vaccinator would take down the “customer’s” details, including their ID number and load them into the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) and create the buyer’s profile with a unique vaccine batch number, which matches the one from the vial.

“We discard the unopened vial and the customer will then immediately get an SMS notifying them you have taken the vaccine. We then issue the customer with the vaccination card. They can then download the certificate showing they have been vaccinated on the EVDS website,” said a health worker from a clinic in Soweto.

The bribe is paid on the spot and is usually around R400.

Another method includes a middleman who works directly with an official from the health department. The buyer is normally requested to register and make a vaccination appointment on the EVDS site. Once the reference number is received by the customer it is then sent to the official who then loads it into the system as if the jab has been done.

“The process takes 20 minutes to activate. You register on the department of health website before you make a payment. Once you have registered, the department will send you a reference number. We will take your reference number and load your details on the system showing that you have received the jab,” said one of the health officials operating in Soweto.

The operation is mainly conducted on digital platforms.

In some instances those making the payment do not even have to walk into a public health facility as the scammers only require an identity number of the applicant to proceed with the arrangement.

The scam allegedly also caters for illegal foreign nationals. “With illegal foreigners it’s different. Those that we have assisted want the actual jab. We give them the vaccine but on the system it will reflect that the jab was given to a South African citizen,” said another health official in Soweto.

The group that produces fraudulent vaccine certificates in the Joburg CDB uses a shop located along one of the busy streets.

The front end of the shop operates as a cellphone repair store with numerous cellphone devices and broken phone screens displayed by the roller door. At the back it has beauty and hair salon services.

The person believed to be part of the vaccine certificate scam was not present on the day, but when the people inside the store communicated with him over the phone, the man repeatedly said he was nearby but he never showed up.

Deputy health department director-general Nicholas Crisp conceded that there are corrupt individuals within the system but the government has taken measures to remove those demanding cash to issue Covid19 vaccine certificates.

“We are aware of cases of vaccinators taking bribes to rig the system but most of those cases were recorded during the peak of the Covid-19 fifth wave. Current information does not indicate that there is a major problem but the Hawks continue to monitor all reported leads,” said Crisp.

During the Covid-19 fifth wave several scammers were caught in parts of Houghton and Cape Town, according to Crisp.

“A number of officials have been dismissed and criminal cases were opened against them. I don’t have the exact figures with me right now, but the issue of vaccinators taking bribes for vaccine certificates is no longer a big problem,” he said.

– Sowetan

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