President Joe Biden wants to get 70% of the country vaccinated against COVID-19 by the Fourth of July, 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.
Related: ‘It’s not just about what’s on that card’: Don’t post your COVID-19 vaccination card on social media — here’s why
Enterprising vendors on Etsy ETSY, -0.41% and Amazon AMZN, +0.85% 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, have even offered free lamination services without purchase for those who want to protect their vaccine cards. Staples’ service has lapsed, but OfficeMax and Office Depot are vaccinating cards through July 25. (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.
Read more: What you need to know about vaccine passports — and the ‘double privilege’ dilemma they raise
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 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.
If you are not given a vaccine card, the CDC suggests that you contact the vaccination provider’s site where you got vaccinated, or your state health department, to find out how you can get a card.
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. Leana 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 PFE, +0.71% or Moderna MRNA, +4.23% 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 JNJ, +0.35% 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.
It’s also a good idea to tell your family and your doctor that you have been vaccinated. This way, if you are ever unconscious or incapacitated and have to be taken to a hospital or urgent care center, your doctor or your family can let the nurses and physicians treating you know that you have been vaccinated against COVID.
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.
And if you enrolled in V-safe or VaxText after your first vaccine dose, if you are getting one of the two-shot vaccines, you can access your vaccination information using those tools.
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.”
“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.
And one more thing:
Don’t share your vaccine card on social media!
Security experts and the Federal Trade Commission alike are warning people not to post pictures of their vaccine cards online, which could compromise their personal information. “You could be inviting identity theft,” the FTC’s division of consumer information warns. Indeed, the card features your full name, date of birth, where you got the vaccine and the dates you got it. Perhaps you’ve used some of these terms or numbers as passwords or PIN numbers? Identity thieves can also possibly piece together your Social Security number by knowing your date and place of birth.
If you want to share news about your vaccination, consider taking a picture of your bandage over the injection site, or a snap of your vaccine sticker.
This article was originally published on March 30 and has been updated with more up-to-date information about vaccination rates and lamination promotions.