What To Know About Your COVID-19 Vaccine Card

This piece of paper could be your passport into a new normal.

For those who've gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, they've also received a COVID-19 vaccination card. Besides confirming that you're fully or partially vaccinated, the card documents when you got the shot, where it happened, and the vaccine type you received, among other info, such as any subsequent booster shots.

Your vaccine record card is almost as important as the shot itself. Besides letting others know what type of vaccine you had in case you suffer adverse effects, you might need the card as proof of vaccination before getting on a plane, eating indoors at a restaurant, returning to work or school, or venturing into other public spaces. Because it's so important, it's up to you to know how to keep it safe, what to do if you lose it, and whether or not you should be carrying it with you. Here's what health experts recommend.

Your COVID-19 Vaccine Card, What to Do if You Lose It, Why You Shouldn't Laminate It, and Other Important Info , BOSTON - DECEMBER 16: Elizabeth Hafted, Pharmacist displays a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston on Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Don't Get It Laminated—Yet

Considering how crucial this card will be, it makes sense to think about protecting it with a permanent plastic shield. But doctors recommend holding off on that move—particularly since additional booster doses may continue to be recommended.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president, has said that whether or not we get regular, yearly booster shots has not yet been determined. So again, you'll want to make sure your health care provider has easy access to it.

The lamination process can also mess with the pen or printer ink on the cards, potentially making it illegible, said Dr. Shafie. For now, you can easily protect it in any of the vaccination-card-sized sheet protectors that have started popping up online.

Take a Picture of It

Judging by social media, most people don't need to be told to photograph their vaccine card. But it's a one-of-a-kind document, so providers are stressing that people should take a quick, clear pic of it once they're fully vaccinated.

"Make sure to snap a photo of both the front and back of the card on your cell phone," said Dr. Shafie. Then store the photo in your camera roll, upload it to an easily accessible place like the Apple Cloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox, and even email it to yourself or a trusted emergency contact.

"That way you have access to a digital copy of the card whenever it is needed," said Dr. Shafie. The photo of the card might be proof enough for entering certain spaces, but more importantly, capturing the data on the card will be crucial if you ever need to report it lost.

Don't Post It on Social Media

It's tempting to share your #justvaxxed selfie on social media; even doctors do it. "Many health care providers, such as myself, rushed to do this in the early phases of the vaccination process to help promote the vaccine," Mohamad Moussa, MD, an emergency medicine specialist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, told Health.com.

But remember, your card contains a lot of personal info, such as your full name, date of birth, where you got your vaccine, and the date or dates you had it—all of which can be used for identity theft. "As with posting anything online, you could be risking your personal identity and others stealing and modifying your immunization record for themselves," Dr. Moussa said.

Think about it this way: "Identity theft works like a puzzle, made up of pieces of personal information," the Federal Trade Commission wrote in early 2021. You don't want to give identity thieves the pieces they need to finish the picture."

Don't Lose It—But if It Goes Missing, Here's What to Do

You want to keep your vaccine card safe because it's going to be a major pain to replace it if it goes missing. But "if you happen to lose your card, check back with the clinic, pharmacy, or hospital where you received the immunization, as they may have some form of record," Dr. Moussa said.

If that's not an option, the CDC recommends contacting your state health department's immunization information system; your info should be added to that registry when you get vaccinated.

The CDC also has a program called V-Safe you can sign up for. "This program tracks post-vaccine side effects and symptoms through a smartphone," Dr. Shafie said. "Register after you get any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or booster, and the program will keep track of your vaccine information so that you can access it later, should you lose your card."

Store It in A Safe Place

Right now, there are no set guidelines on where you'll need to show your vaccine card, so you don't need to carry it on you at all times. However, there may be times where you will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination, says Moussa—whether that's for entering office buildings, schools, and transportation services or visiting resorts, venues, and amusement parks.

The White House clarified in April 2021 that there will be no official federal vaccine passport, but states and businesses may enact these rules on their own.

When you're not going somewhere that requires you to show the hard copy, keep your vaccine card somewhere safe. "I keep mine with my passport, and keeping the card in a place where one stores things like deeds, social security cards, or birth certificates makes a lot of sense," says Dr. Shafie.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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