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It's important to hold on to your COVID-19 vaccination cards. Here's why

That little piece of paper could be your ticket to resuming life as we knew it pre-pandemic.

It's important to hold on to your COVID-19 vaccination cards. Here's why
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/ Nancy Pelosi holds up a Vaccination Record Card in her office on Capitol Hill on December 18, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ken Cedeno-Pool)

COVID-19 vaccination cards have more or less become a badge of honor on social media in recent months. However, that little piece of paper holds much more value than an instrument for showing off online. According to ABC News, the precious paper card — which contains important information including the brand of vaccine you received and the dates you were immunized — could be one's ticket to resuming life as we knew it pre-pandemic. "A vaccination card is a tool that people can use to declare that they have some level of protection against COVID," said John Brownstein, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital. "Being able to assess immunity to COVID is a critical part of trying to resume our daily lives."




Public health experts emphasize that it's crucial to safeguard one's COVID-19 vaccination card since it'll help prove a person's vaccination status and streamline possible future booster shots. Although it might be possible to replace vaccination records if they are lost or damaged, since the country's health care systems are already stretched thin at the moment, it crucial that we take good care of our cards during the pandemic. "What these little cards have the potential to do is to make something like international travel easier by avoiding requirements for quarantine or testing," explained Amesh Adalja, M.D., FIDSA, an infectious disease specialist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.




Adalja added that the logistics around how a "vaccine passport" would work are still up for discussion since "nothing has been put into place yet."  Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, the vice-chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America's global health committee and an emerging leader in biosecurity at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, also stressed the need to have a vaccination card. "It's important for people to have a record of which vaccine they received and when they got their shots," she said. "It's your proof that you got your vaccine."




Kuppalli pointed out that the vaccine brand and lot number in your card may be relevant when the time comes for a booster dose. "Whether it's school, entertainment venues, or travel, there's going to be an expectation that to resume these activities you have to be retested and enter quarantine or produce proof of immunization," said Brownstein.

What if you do lose your card?




If for some unforeseen reason you do lose your COVID-19 vaccine card, it is possible to get a duplicate blank card. However, you'll be required to fill it out with your vaccination information — which the facility and the state where you received your vaccine would have on record. Adalja recommends going back to where you got vaccinated and if that doesn't work, call your state's department of health, which also keeps a record. Kuppalli explained that while every state has an immunization database, this information is not shared across state lines. National chains like CVS and Walgreens also promise to have apps that show vaccination records if you received your vaccines with them.

What to do with your card once you have it:

Kuppalli and Brownstein recommend taking and saving a photo of the card on your phone. It would also be a good idea to then stow the card away for safekeeping along with other important documents, like social security cards, and passports. Also, before posting any photos of or with the card online, remember that it contains identifying information like your name and birth date on it.

Vaccination records could be digital in the future



According to Brownstein, while several private companies and organizations are developing secure apps that use vaccination records to verify an individual's COVID-19 immunity, international standards will need to be established before a digital "vaccine passport" can be accepted around the world. Fortunately, multination organizations like the World Health Organization are currently working on these challenges.

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