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

As of now, more than 99 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine—which means they've been given a COVID-19 vaccine 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.

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'll likely 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)
Credit: 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. "We are still not sure whether booster shots will be required, so having access to continue to write on them is important," Shideh Shafie, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University, tells Health.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that people may also be asked to get a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna as opposed to a booster shot in the next six to 12 months, which would also be added to your vaccine card. 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, Dr. Shafie adds. 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, advises 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," Dr. Shafie explains. 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, tells Health.

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 explains.

Think about it this way: "Identity theft works like a puzzle, made up of pieces of personal information," the Federal Trade Commission recently wrote. 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 MIA. But sh*t happens, and "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," says Dr. Moussa.

If that's not an option, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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 is to track post-vaccine side effects and symptoms through a smartphone," explains Dr. Shafie. "Register when you get your first vaccine, 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. Soon, though, it will likely become important 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.

New York state, for example, recently started allowing large-scale venues like sports areas to host a certain percentage of capacity as long as all attendees present of proof a negative COVID-19 test or completed COVID-19 vaccination before entry. (The White House recently clarified that there will be no official federal vaccine passport, so states and businesses will likely be enacting 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 CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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