More than 100 million Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. The proof? A 4-to-3-inch paper “vaccination record card” issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a post-pandemic world, the humble card for those who are fully vaccinated can become an important document used for travel, attending events, returning to the post-pandemic office, and other purposes. Here’s what experts say you need to know about vaccination cards.
Photograph your record card
The first thing experts recommend once you have been vaccinated is to take a digital photo of both sides of your personal filing card. You can also scan the map and save the file to a laptop or desktop computer, said Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital and associate professor at Brown University.
One thing you should not do: Share your personal proof of inoculation on Facebook or other social media sites, which can lead to identity theft because the CDC card includes a person̵
“I would not post it on social media with my birthday. It is a unique identifier that can give anyone the opportunity to steal your identity, so I will be careful first,” said epidemiologist Danielle Ompad, professor at the NYU School of Global Public Health, told CBS MoneyWatch.
In contrast, it may be a good idea to print a copy of the photo of the vaccination card and keep it in your wallet. While some experts advise against having the original card laminated so that vaccine booster shots can be added if need be, others say it’s OK because a more sophisticated registration system is likely to be in place before then.
“I would laminate it as the technology will have evolved when a booster comes,” suggested Dr. Maureen Miller, Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
You can have your card laminated for free in the Staples office supply store using the code 81450 or at the Office Depot with the code 52516714.
Leave the original at home
Make sure you keep the original hard copy of your vaccine card in a safe place – you do not have to have it on your person at all times and risk losing it. Experts recommend that the original be kept with other important documents or medical records and carry only the digital copy.
“It doesn’t have to be worn at this point unless you travel or do something else where you will have to provide proof of vaccination,” Ranney said.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said he keeps his vaccination record stored in his passport (along with a card showing he has been vaccinated against yellow fever).
Tell your primary care physician that you have received the vaccine as you would with any other vaccination. This helps healthcare providers ensure that your vaccination record is up to date.
Not everyone has followed the experts’ advice to keep vaccination records in a safe place. University of Illinois gymnast Evan Manivong recently nailed a perfect landing during a vault competition – and celebrated by pulling his vaccine card tucked inside the jersey and flashing it to the audience. “Go and vaccinate everyone!” the 20-year-old advertising company later tweeted. Videos of the magical moment went viral this week.
What happens if I lose it?
If you lose your card, do not panic. Each time a vaccine is administered, the provider registers it in the state immunization registry.
“These thin pieces of paper are not the only record of your vaccination status,” Adalja said. “People need to keep the cards safe so they have them at hand, but it’s not the end of the world if they lose it or if it goes through the washing machine.”
If you misplace your card, call your state’s health department and ask for a replacement.
“Right now, that’s what we have as proof that you’ve got the vaccine, but it’s not impossible to replace,” said Dr. Christine Whelan, Clinical Professor of Consumer Science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
For now, Whelan said, the CDC’s simple white cards can have more symbolic value than practical function.
“Other countries do not hand out pieces of paper as we are, and that can be a picturesque thing we do. There is something satisfying about leaving with the card copy register in case,” she said.
No universal standard – yet
President Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said this week that the US government will not give a mandate to so-calledfor travel and other business activities. Anything that looks like a digital passport is likely to be , he added.
Some experts regret that the government has not previously developed a standardized, digital proof of vaccination.
“I think the US government should have thought of a digital app early on and had it ready to go, so it was activated when a person got a vaccine,” Adalja said. “Now we have to fight to find a solution that is digital and secure so people do not have to worry about carrying the card around.”
Ideally, one’s vaccination status would be integrated and stored with other personal travel information reflected in programs such as Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, which facilitate the process of traveling through airport security.
Faux wax card
Scammers are also taking advantage of the low-tech registration system. Hundreds of scammers sell fake versions of CDC-issued cards through online e-commerce platforms, including eBay, Etsy and Shopify, according to Saoud Khalifah, CEO of Fakespot, which uses artificial intelligence to warn consumers about online scams.
Sellers are not discreet either. Fakespot has identified hundreds of Facebook pages and eBay lists that offer “wax cards” and “blank vaccine cards” to people who may not have been vaccinated yet.
“It has introduced this new dynamic into society where people can falsify immunity and replace it with a fake card. It’s a new concept we have not seen before,” Khalifah told CBS MoneyWatch.
Race for digital solutions
As Fauci suggested, private companies are already developing ways for people to show that they have been vaccinated or are coronavirus-free. For example, the New York authorities are testing a digital health card powered by blockchain technology in partnership with computer science company IBM.
“The goal is ultimately to provide New Yorkers with a simple, voluntary and safe method to demonstrate evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result or vaccination certification,” IBM said in a news release last month.
New York recently piloted the so-called Excelsior Pass with the Brooklyn Nets at one of the National Basketball Association team’s home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It will also be tested in theaters and other venues when more New Yorkers are vaccinated.
“The Excelsior Pass will play a critical role in getting information to venues and venues in a secure and streamlined way so that we can quickly track the reopening of these businesses and get us one step closer to reaching a new normal,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement last month.
VaxYes is another tool that provides free, HIPAA-compliant digital vaccine records to inoculated individuals. Business manager Mohammed Gaber expects that the product will initially be used most in the travel sector.
“I personally went through the highlights of getting both doses of the vaccine and the downturn thinking and fearing that I had lost my card. Everyone is going to have anxiety around this card and how to protect it,” Gaber said.
VaxYes has partnered with various states and organizations around the United States, including Kansas, which is testing the tool to allow residents to return to shows and other events. So far, thousands of Americans have digitized their paper cards through VaxYes, according to the company.
“People have already started thinking about summer travel plans and they see this as an opportunity to get back to normal and resume travel activities,” Gaber said. “We are very excited to be a part of the solution.”