Fake 'Vaccine Exemption' Card Proliferates on Twitter Despite COVID-19 Misinformation Ban

Twitter users are sharing links to and images of fake "vaccination exemption" cards. The cards violate the social media platform's policies against COVID-19 misinformation.

The media watchdog group Media Matters found several tweets touting the cards as a way to help people refuse vaccinations.

"Under the law of informed consent I refuse any and all vaccinations!" one such card states. "I do not authorize any person, government, employer, institution, organization, [or] business to inoculate me under any circumstance! Any individual who attempts to violate my right to consent will be prosecuted under the full expense of the law."

Other such cards announce themselves as a "notice of legal right" or "advance directive for vaccines." They often contain an image of the caduceus, a winged wand with two serpents intertwined around it. The image is most often associated with medicine and healing.

NOPE! They CAN`T FORCE that! That's why we got EXEMP from VACCINATION Cards and EXEMPT from wearing Mask Cards! Check : https://t.co/NdZP31qEM3 pic.twitter.com/wAgiNvM3Lp

— Masks Down! MaskExemptions.info (@ReRe26621889) January 26, 2021

The cards themselves have no legal basis, according to the watchdog group. "Informed consent," a term mentioned on one of the cards, is a term that typically applies to clinical trials and medical procedures. It is sometimes misleadingly applied to the expectation that medical providers should tell patients all about a medication's benefits and risks before administering it.

Regardless, state laws do not exempt people from vaccinations based on "informed consent."

People can only claim an exemption from getting vaccinated if they live in a state that allows religious or philosophical exemptions. Washington D.C. and 45 states grant religious exemptions. In addition, 15 states allow philosophical exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

COVID-19 vaccination exemption cards Twitter misinformation policy
Twitter users have been circulating links to so-called "vaccination exemption" cards which are non-legally binding and may violate the microblogging platform's policies on COVID-19 misinformation. In this photo illustration, a patient refuses a vaccination. Anna Rozhkova/Getty

Furthermore, there is no national mandate requiring all Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccination. President Joe Biden and his chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have both said that the U.S. won't make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory. The military isn't requiring servicemembers to get vaccinated either.

However, employers and states are within their legal rights to require students and healthcare workers as well as patients and residents of care facilities to get vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"All vaccine mandates include a medical exemption for people whose health would be imperiled because of an allergy to something in the vaccine or because they are immunocompromised or any other reason," wrote Joanne Rosen, a senior lecturer at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If a person claims a medical, religious or philosophical exemption from the vaccine, employers can "exclude" such people from the workplace, according to December 2020 guidelines issued by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC). The EOCC says unvaccinated people may pose "a direct threat" to the health of others.

However, the EOCC's guidelines also state, "This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the [equal employment opportunity] laws or other federal, state and local authorities."

Regardless, tweets touting vaccine exemption cards continue to spread on Twitter despite the social network's policies forbidding such content.

Twitter's policies on misleading COVID-19 information include "unsubstantiated rumors" and "demonstrably false" content that "puts individuals, families and communities at risk." The social network's policies explicitly forbid content that may mislead people on "exemptions pertaining to health advisories."

Twitter's policies state that such tweets may be labeled as misleading or linked to a fact-checking source. The social network's administrators can prevent such tweets from being widely seen or shared. Administrators can also delete such tweets.

A misleading tweet can cause a Twitter user to gain one "strike" against their account. Accounts with two or three strikes can be locked for 12 hours. Accounts with a fourth strike are locked for seven days, and accounts with five or more strikes are permanently suspended.

Twitter's policies state that administrators don't depend on users to help report COVID-19 misinformation. Rather, the social network enforces its policies "in close coordination with trusted partners" such as public health authorities, non-governmental organizations and governments.

Newsweek contacted Twitter for comment.

Newsweek, in partnership with NewsGuard, is dedicated to providing accurate and verifiable vaccine and health information. With NewsGuard's HealthGuard browser extension, users can verify if a website is a trustworthy source of health information. Visit the Newsweek VaxFacts website to learn more and to download the HealthGuard browser extension.

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