Key Findings

  • At schools that mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, 55% of unvaccinated students lie about being vaccinated
  • 46% of students who lied did so by creating or purchasing a fake vaccination card
  • 1 in 2 unvaccinated students lie about vax status in social situations
  • Unvaccinated students are primarily lying in social situations to avoid uncomfortable conversations

College campuses across the U.S. are welcoming millions of students back for the first time since the COVID-19 vaccine has been widely available. Many of them, including large university systems in California, New York, Washington, Indiana, and Illinois, are requiring on-campus students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

However, a recent survey of 1,250 unvaccinated college students found that a significant number are trying to get around those requirements by lying about being inoculated, both to their administrations and their peers.

Nearly half of unvaccinated students lying are using fake vaccination cards

Fifty-five percent of unvaccinated students who are attending schools with COVID-19 vaccination requirements are lying to their school about their inoculation status.

Despite the fact that most schools already allow medical and religious exemptions for other mandated vaccines, like measles and meningitis, the most popular way for students to get around the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is to create or purchase a fake vaccination card.

Forty-six percent of students who lied to their schools say they did so by submitting fake vaccination documentation.

Nineteen percent of students say their school did not require a vaccination card or other proof of vaccination, so they were able to lie by saying they are vaccinated, either verbally or in a written statement.

Sixteen percent of those who lied did so with fake medical exemption, while 15% falsely claimed a religious exemption.

51% of unvaccinated students are lying about vaccine status in social situations

We also asked all students, regardless of their school’s vaccine policies, whether they told their peers the truth about their vaccine status in social situations. Fifty-one percent of all survey respondents lie and say they’re inoculated in social settings.

Students who lied to their colleges are more likely to lie in social situations as well. Eighty-one percent of students who lied about being vaccinated to their college will also lie to their peers in social situations.

Meanwhile, only 27% of students who did not lie to their college say they pretend to be vaccinated in social situations.

Majority want to avoid uncomfortable conversations

When asked why they are lying about their vaccination status in social situations, 60% of students say it is because they want to avoid having conversations with people who have different opinions about the vaccine.

Other reasons respondents gave for lying about being vaccinated in social situations include avoiding pressure to receive the vaccine (52%); avoiding being shamed for not being vaccinated (50%), and avoiding being excluded from social activities (41%).

Male students lie more

Lying about vaccination status is more prevalent among certain demographics, according to our survey.

Male students are 20% more likely to lie about being vaccinated at their school than female students, at 61% and 41% respectively.

By race, sixty-five percent of unvaccinated Asian American students, and 60% of White students who attend colleges requiring vaccination gave false information about their inoculation status, compared to 48% of Hispanic/Latino students, and 40% of Black students.


All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, we surveyed 1,250 current American college students who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. Appropriate respondents were found via a screening question. This survey was conducted on July 16, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. Any questions can be directed to [email protected].