More than a dozen states are opening COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults this week, which means more Americans could soon be getting some form of a vaccination card — and wondering where they should keep it.
You see, the three-by-four-inch paper vaccination card designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is too big for most wallets, let alone the standard credit card pockets sewn into wallets and purses. So questions about how to keep your vaccination card safe, and whether you should laminate it, have been popping up online.
Enterprising vendors on Etsy
are already selling vaccine card holders and sleeves, some of which are looped to decorative lanyards. And retailers including OfficeMax and Office Depot, as well as Staples, are offering free lamination services without purchase for those who want to protect their vaccine cards. (What’s more, “I’m vaccinated” merch is also giving Etsy sellers another shot at profits. )
“I’m getting asked about this a lot more as more people get vaccinated, and they’re starting to see vaccination requirements to go to a sporting event or to travel,” Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of NYU Langone’s Division of Medical Ethics, told MarketWatch.
The U.S. has no central database for immunizations, The Wall Street Journal reports, and there is no one standard proof for COVID-19 vaccinations. In fact, the COVID vaccination cards are not necessarily uniform, since some states and local authorities are handing out their own cards rather than using the CDC’s version. So this means your vaccination card is the only physical proof that you’ve received your shot or shots at the moment, and you’ll want to take good care of it.
Caplan said that he started telling people to laminate their cards two months ago. “Knowing who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 is going to be crucial in the months to come,” he said, “and it’s going to be absolutely crucial for getting into events, traveling, maybe even getting into work.”
And while some people have expressed concern that laminating vaccine cards now could create issues if you need a COVID shot booster down the road, Caplan waved those concerns away. “If you get a booster, you’ll probably get a new card anyway,” he said.
But health experts told MarketWatch that there are some things you should do before you rush to get your vaccination card laminated, if you choose to go that route versus buying a sleeve or a lanyard.
Make sure the information on your vaccination card is accurate
Make sure that your name and birthdate are correct, and that the card includes which vaccine you received, and the right date and location. “At your first appointment, if anything looks wrong, make sure they write down the right information before you leave,” Caplan said. If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, you also want to make sure that you are being given the correct vaccine at your second appointment.
Ask where your vaccination record is being kept
“You want to know where this information is being recorded digitally, in case you lose your card,” Caplan explained. Ask someone at your vaccination location, and if for some reason they cannot tell you, you can also try checking your state health department’s immunization information system (ISS). The CDC notes that some places may also enroll you in online tools like V-safe or VaxText after your first dose, where you can also access your vaccination information.
Photograph both sides of your vaccination card, and email the photos to yourself
If you have a camera phone, Dr. Leanne Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, recommends taking a picture of both sides of your vaccine card ASAP, and marking it as a “favorite” in your phone’s photo album in some way, or perhaps storing the images in a mobile wallet. “I would email the pictures to myself, too,” she said, “just to make sure that there’s another copy of it.”
If you don’t have a camera phone, then take a photograph of the card with a camera when you get home. Store those images in a safe place, including emailing them to yourself.
Make a paper photocopy of both sides of your vaccination card
In the same vein, make a hard copy of your vaccination card — perhaps at one of the retailers where you’re getting the card laminated, if you choose to go that route. “When it comes to something like your COVID vaccination, you want to have this documentation at your fingertips,” said Wen. “That’s why having multiple copies of it available in different ways is a wise choice.”
Don’t laminate your card until you get your second dose, if it’s a two-shot vaccine
The health care workers at your vaccination site are going to be writing down the details of your second dose on this card, if you’re getting the Pfizer
vaccines, so you’ll want to wait until you’ve received both shots and confirmed the information for both is correct on your card before you get it laminated. If you are getting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson
vaccine, you can go ahead and laminate it if you’d like after your one-and-done dose — although you should run through the above list first.
Neither of the health professionals MarketWatch spoke with, nor the CDC, expressed concern about laminating the cards. It should be noted, however, that medical guidance is always subject to change as we get more information or new policies are put into place. Both Caplan and Wen said that you would probably get another card if you needed to get a booster shot, however.
These health professionals and the CDC also offered some tips on where to keep your card, as well as what to do if your vaccine card is lost or damaged.
What if my vaccine card is lost or damaged?
Contact the place where you received your vaccine to access your vaccination record and get another card.
If you cannot contact your vaccination provider for some reason, then reach out to your state health department’s immunization information system (IIS). You can find state IIS information on the CDC website. The CDC notes that vaccination providers are required to report COVID-19 vaccinations to their IIS and related systems, so the state should have a record of your vaccination.
Should I keep my vaccine card in my wallet or carry it with me at all times?
Neither Wen nor Caplan believe you need to keep your COVID vaccination card on you at this time, since so many people still remain unvaccinated. “Put it in the same place as all of your other important documents — your passport, your birth certificate,” Wen suggested. “There’s no reason for you to be carrying it around with you everywhere, especially if you have a digital copy on your phone. There are still really not enough people who have been vaccinated, that establishments have been setting up requirements for proof of vaccination yet.”
“Right now, you don’t have to carry it when you’re out,” Caplan agreed. “I think in the future, if you are going to a Broadway show or a sporting event, you’ll need it.” So similar to something like a passport or birth certificate, you’ll just want to bring your card with you for special occasions — or for snagging a free Krispy Kreme doughnut through the end of the year.
Keep in mind that this guidance could be subject to change, however. And it’s also possible that you’ll be able to prove that you’ve been vaccinated via an app, such as the digital Excelsior Pass being rolled out in New York. The state likens it to a mobile airline boarding pass, but for proving that you received a COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID test.