You’ve gotten your covid-19 vaccine dose and accompanying small, white vaccination card.
Now what do you do?
Take a picture — of the card — for backup. No selfie required.
The card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention serves as official documentation.
The cards contain important information about a person’s vaccination status, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“The cards are a record of the vaccinations you received regarding covid-19,” he said. “They’re a paper trail that you have of your vaccination status.”
According to the CDC, everyone should get a vaccination card after their first vaccination appointment. The card includes information such as when and where a person received the shot, their name and birthday, what type of vaccine they received and the vaccine lot number.
“Currently, the vaccine card is one method for the individual to have a reminder of the date of their second dose as well as have confirmation of their vaccine progress,” said Maggi Barton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
For anyone who didn’t receive a vaccine card after receiving the shot, the CDC recommends contacting the vaccination provider or the state health department to find how to get a card.
Once individuals have a card, it’s important to keep it safe, said Laura Mark, Allegheny Health Network’s vice president of pharmacy.
“Keep that at a secure location,” she said. “We’re recommending people take a picture of it so they know what lot and the dates they received it in case they lose it.”
Some people opt to laminate the cards, which Adalja said is fine to do. Office Depot and Staples will laminate the cards for free. Other experts say laminating the cards could complicate documentation of any possible future booster shots.
Amazon sells clear waterproof plastic sleeves that allow people to wear their cards on lanyards or attach them to keychains.
But for anyone who does lose their vaccine card, there’s no need to panic.
“That data isn’t something that’s gone if your card is gone,” Adalja said.
Vaccination information is stored in a state immunization registry, something that has existed “for a long, long time,” Adalja said.
“If an individual were to lose their paper vaccination card, the provider would also have the electronic records,” Barton said. “If an individual were to lose their card and would like to have it, they can contact their provider who can confirm the vaccination record and supply them with that confirmation.”
Having proof of vaccination could be important for international travel or entering event venues or sporting events, though it’s still unclear exactly how that might work.
“Private industries might come up with ways to use these in a way to increase capacity or decrease mitigation measures because they have a vaccination-only section,” Adalja said. “These types of cards or some equivalent like an app would be what you use in those situations.”
But Adalja said it’s likely that the flimsy paper cards distributed at vaccine sites won’t be used for those purposes. Instead, he said an app would be an easier, more secure method of proving vaccination status.
“For international travel, it probably should be something a little more secure, maybe something tied to your passport or a more secure app,” Adalja said.
An app, Adalja said, beats the covid-19 vaccination cards because they could be more secure and harder to fake. Fake covid-19 vaccination cards have already cropped up, demonstrating why a more secure method may be preferable.
“Many vaccine hesitant people have no qualms about trying to get a fraudulent card,” Adalja said.
Apps proving vaccination are already being used in some places. New York launched the Excelsior Pass, a free, secure way to provide digital proof of covid-19 vaccination or negative test results. Israel rolled out a similar tool, called the Green Pass, which also proves covid-19 vaccination status.
In Pennsylvania, there are no definitive plans yet about how covid-19 vaccination cards might be used in the future.
“Pennsylvania is awaiting federal guidance on vaccination cards moving forward,” Barton said, encouraging anyone who has received the vaccine to save the card.
Melinda Wedde of McCandless received her second dose of the Moderna vaccine in the beginning of March. Since then, she’s kept her vaccine card in her night stand drawer so she doesn’t lose it.
“I think they’re too big and too flimsy to be showing as proof,” she said.
But she still plans to keep the card. For Wedde, it’s a piece of history.
“My grandparents, they lived through the Depression and World War II and Korea and all that stuff. I actually have my grandma’s ration booklet, some of her stamps and that stuff from back in the ’40s,” she said. “So things like this, I just feel like historical mementos like that are important to hold on to, even if you don’t need them right now.”
One thing the vaccination cards are not good for, however, are selfies, Mark said. She advised against posting pictures of the cards, because they contain personal information that people may not want to put online.
“You wouldn’t do that with your driver’s license or your insurance card,” she said.
Wedde said she felt comfortable posting a selfie with her card after she covered up her personal information.