Vaccine cards
(File photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
  • Dis-Chem on Wednesday confirmed a case of what it described as vaccine card fraud at one of its stores.
  • The prospect of a domestic vaccine passport system has raised fears about fake proof that people have received Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Dis-Chem stressed it has measures in place to prevent fraud, and said it acted quickly on the matter.
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Pharmacy retailer Dis-Chem on Wednesday confirmed an "isolated incident of fraudulent vaccination cards", stressing that it has stringent checks in place to prevent such fraud, and acted fast in the matter.

Local outlet Krugersdorp News first reported that two men and two women, aged between 19 and 36 had appeared in court on charges of fraud on Monday, after their arrest on Friday afternoon.

Police told the paper they had investigated a complaint from the Dis-Chem head office of a discrepancy, after a person who asked for a replacement for a lost vaccine certificate was charged R100.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dis-Chem said the four were temporary employees. It did not detail how the alleged fraud was detected, but highlighted its commitment to the vaccine rollout, and its determination to help keep records accurate.

"The pharmacy group maintains rigorous accounting methods to ensure routine daily balancing of vaccines doses to stock and to the [Electronic Vaccination Data System], and it acted swiftly and decisively when a discrepancy was found," the company said.

It quoted its CEO Ivan Saltzman as saying the company "did not hesitate to act as soon as this was brought to our attention as it is most upsetting to see that a small number of individuals felt they could take advantage of the vaccine rollout drive."

The seemingly imminent arrival of domestic vaccine passports in South Africa – which science advisors say could be used from early November – have raised fears that an industry will emerge to help create fake proof of vaccinations.

The government has not yet detailed its plans for electronic vaccine certificates, but those are likely to include online checking mechanisms and the ability to revoke certificates. Such electronic certificates would be linked to entries on the EVDS.

However, health minister Joe Phaahla has said paper certificates would be available to ensure those without smartphones or internet access would not be penalised by the system.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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