By Agnes Edwards
A number of expats have asked me if I have knowledge of someone producing fake vaccination certificates, using them, or selling them to other expats, and how can they report this to the authorities.
The law is clear: fabricating a false vaccination certificate in Ecuador is a crime. Article 328 of the Integral Organic Penal Code provides for a sentence of five to seven years in prison for a person who falsifies, destroys, adulterates, or modifies a public or private document used in a legal sense. For an expat who is not a citizen, the possibility of deportation also exists.
Many persons opposed to being vaccinated have stated beliefs such as “My Body, My Choice” and that the Ecuadorian government is infringing on their personal liberty by requiring residents to show their vaccination certificate before entering a supermarket, restaurant, or other public places such as a bank.
Conceptually, the right to “liberty” ends when it infringes upon someone else’s rights. For example, driving while intoxicated is illegal because it endangers the safety of other motorists and pedestrians (and the occasional house or fence). A company may not freely pollute the air or water consumed by everyone else because this endangers the public’s health. Neighbors may not play blaring loud music at 3 a.m. that keeps awake a whole neighborhood.
Opponents to vaccination seem to believe that not being vaccinated is solely a matter for them alone and does not affect anyone else. One need only to read published hospitalization statistics to see that this is not true: 90% are unvaccinated and nearly all of the deaths are among the unvaccinated.
Currently, with the omicron variant, unvaccinated persons age 65 and older who are unvaccinated have a 400% higher probability of dying. The vast majority of Covid deaths nowadays are preventable deaths. This can be seen in the following graph from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
If remaining unvaccinated affected only the persons making that decision, that would be fine. But it doesn’t affect only them, it affects all of us. This is true of all communicable diseases such as polio, measles, and tuberculosis, among others.
Being vaccinated does not guarantee that a person will not catch Covid, or spread it to others. It does, however, greatly reduce the likelihood of serious illness. Being vaccinated in conjunction with wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing is our best hope at keeping the economy here in Ecuador open and functioning; this is why the government of Guillermo Lasso has made vaccination such a priority.
Why is getting the population vaccinated so important? It’s not to implant chips in people’s brains for mind control, to alter their DNA, or to turn them into werewolves who howl at the moon, but for four principal reasons:
• to reduce the contagion and severity of disease to something milder and more manageable;
• to keep our healthcare systems operating at a sustainable level so that healthcare remains available to all who need it, whether Covid-related or not;
• to reduce the strain on healthcare workers, who are exhausted and burned out from working double shifts for months on end and witnessing so many avoidable deaths; and
•to protect those who cannot be vaccinated due to immunological issues (cancer survivors, organ transplant recipients, etc.) or age (newborns, infants under age three).
We all want to have the local hospital functioning normally should we have a heart attack or stroke, get into a traffic accident, or have any other healthcare problem that needs attention.
In Guayaquil in the spring of 2020, it didn’t matter whether one had private health insurance or public health coverage, there just wasn’t any availability at any hospital for whatever problem you had; the healthcare system was completely overrun with Covid. Corpses were left on the streets because there was not enough capacity to handle the cadavers.
One idea that Ecuador could consider is enacting a measure similar to what Greece has recently enacted. Persons over age 60 in Greece who are not vaccinated are now subject to monthly fines, starting at 50 euros in January 2022 and rising to 100 euros per month. Funds collected will be used to pay for Covid hospitalizations. Perhaps a similar policy should apply to non-citizen/non-refugee expats living in Ecuador, or at least it should be noted, and fully explained why resident foreigners are being permitted to endanger the health of Ecuadorians, who are overwhelmingly compiling with international standards of disease prevention.
So what should you do if you know of someone here in Cuenca using a fake vaccination certificate, or offering them for sale?
One option is to report this to the Fiscalia General in the prosecutor’s office in Cuenca. There are two offices in Cuenca for the Fiscalia, one in the historic center and one in Paucarbamba: one is on the corner of Simon Bolivar y Presidente Borrero, a second location is Pasaje Paucarbramba 2-82 y Carlos Vintimilla.
There is an online directory for Azuay’s Fiscalia General at https://www.fiscalia.gob.ec/directorio-fiscalia-provincial-del-azuay/ that contains phone numbers and further information about the office’s function and purpose (in Spanish).
If you wish to remain anonymous, you can call the Policia Nacional using the 911 line and give them your information, including the name and approximate address of the person that you know is using a falsified document (you do not need to know the person’s cédula number or date of birth). Since they do not speak English as a general rule, you may need to have someone help you with this phone call.
Fabricating a false vaccination certificate puts the safety of the entire community at risk and merits being reported to the authorities. Lives are at stake. People are dying. This is serious business.