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Text Messages From Cook County Health Asking For Proof Of COVID-19 Vaccination Get Mistaken For Scams — But They Aren’t

Tuesday, March 02, 2021
CBS Local
by Marie Saavedra

To watch this piece click here

CHICAGO (CBS) — Once people get the COVID-19 vaccination shot, they will get what is known as a vaccination record card – a prized possession that displays proof they got the vaccine.

The Better Business Bureau recently warned against posting pictures of it online, because scammers could create phony cards. So when a viewer reached out to us about a text from Cook County asking for a picture of their card – they thought was a scam – and so did we.

But it wasn’t.

As CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported Tuesday, it is not uncommon to get a spam text message. And that was what viewers thought they received Tuesday morning from Cook County Health.

While we have learned it was not a scam, you can see why it left people wondering.

“I had my first vaccine shot about 10 days ago,” said Andre Pelizzon.

It was shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday when Pelizzon’s phone buzzed, with a text saying it was from Cook County Health. He had gotten his first shot through the county, but the text message said it “did not have a record of his first dose.”

It asked that he “email a photo of the CDC vaccination card that was provided,” and said if he didn’t do so in the next two days, the county would ”unfortunately, have to cancel his second dose appointment.”

“What was written, the context of the message it seemed, it seemed kind of off, and of course we’re also kind of like trained to think that random unsolicited messages asking for personal information probably aren’t correct,” Pelizzon said.

It didn’t help that it came from a Denver area code. So Pelizzon called Cook County Health.

He said he gave the hotline his name and they confirmed his second appointment – which, you’d think, would make the text a moot point.

“The question is then, why don’t you have that information?” Pelizzon said. “So that’s what would make me think that something was wrong.”
He is not the only one. We heard from others who got the text confused by the request and the threat of canceling their second shot.

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So we pressed Cook County Health, and got a statement saying this is not a scam.

The department noted a number of second-dose appointments scheduled without a matching record for the first. It blamed the records, saying a “use of a middle initial,” “getting the first dose elsewhere,” or “clicked a second-dose appointment” when an user wanted a first as reasons why.

Cook County Health confirms, “We have asked these individuals to provide their vaccine record card.”

It is still head scratching to Pelizzon, who said his records didn’t have any of the issues the county outlined.

“If you’re going to do something like this, there’s probably just a slightly better way to do it, he said.

Cook County said it was not just text messages – there were emails that went out too, depending on the contact information people left when they signed up.

They said the confusion could also come up if someone registered for their first shot as “Joseph” and their second as “Joe.” That is enough for the County to want to verify the appointment.

As to the issue of people just signing up for a second shot and not the first, the concern seems to be that people might think doing so could make it easier to get in – and they would then just sign up for a second dose again for their actual second dose.

But the people Saavedra talked to Tuesday said say they didn’t have that issue or the name issue, so that added to the worry that this did not seem right.

Cook Count Health’s full statement on the issue is as follows:

“Cook County Health vaccine sites represent only 16 of the hundreds of vaccine locations across Cook County. Vaccine is received and earmarked for first or second dose to ensure that all individuals who receive their first dose get their second dose.

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“As part of our internal vaccine integrity review process, we noted a number of second dose appointments scheduled without a matching record for the first dose being administered at one of our vaccine sites. This can occur due to the use of a middle initial or other identifying factor in one appointment but not the other; because the individual received their first dose elsewhere; or because they inadvertently clicked a second dose appointment when they wanted a first dose appointment. As part of our validation process, we have asked these individuals to provide their vaccine record card. In addition to providing the necessary validation of the individual, it is critical to ensure that we are administering the right vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) at the right interval. Appointments for those who provide validation will be honored.”

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