The valuable paper card contains vital information, including the brand of vaccine you received and the dates you were vaccinated. Keeping this information handy, according to public health experts, is essential in case you need it to prove your immunization status or to streamline any future recalls. Immunization records can potentially be replaced if they are are lost or damaged, but it is especially important to take good care of your immunization records during this pandemic, when the country’s health systems are depleted.
“An immunization record is a tool people can use to report that they have some level of protection against COVID,” said John Brownstein, Ph.D., ABC News contributor and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Being able to assess immunity to COVID is an essential part of trying to resume our daily life.”
“What these little cards have the potential to do is facilitate something like international travel by avoiding quarantine or testing requirements,” Amesh Adalja, MD, FIDSA, infectious disease specialist and principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told ABC News.
The logistics around how a “vaccine passport” would work are still under discussion. “Nothing has been put in place yet,” Adalja said.
Even so, the COVID vaccination card is not the first of its kind. Some countries, for example, require proof of yellow fever vaccination, and many public and private schools require enrolled children to be fully immunized.
All vaccinations given in the United States should have a paper trail, but if your vaccine card can help you navigate our new standard, you might want to treat it with care.
Below, our specialists answer common questions about the COVID-19 vaccination card and how it can be used in the future.
Why is it important to keep your vaccination record?
“It is important that people have a record of which vaccine they received and when they received their vaccine,” Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, vice chair of the Global Health Committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and leader emerging biosecurity at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told ABC News. “This is your proof that you have your vaccine. ”
Although vaccine studies are still ongoing, the brand and lot number of the vaccine on your card may be relevant when it comes time for a booster dose, she says. “Whether it’s school, places of entertainment or travel, in order to resume these activities, you are expected to be re-tested and enter quarantine or produce proof of immunization, ”Brownstein said.
What if I lose my card?
It is possible to get a double blank card, but you will need to fill it out with your vaccination information. Fortunately, the facility and state where you received your vaccine should keep these records.
According to Adalja, “you should go back to where you were vaccinated,” and if that doesn’t work, you have another option: call your state’s health department, which also keeps a register.
Every state has an immunization database, Kuppalli explained, but that data is not shared between states.
Some national chains, like CVS and Walgreens, also promise to have apps that display immunization records if you’ve received your shots with them.
What should I do with my card once I have it?
Kuppalli suggests that his patients take a picture of the card on their phone. Brownstein agrees, adding that the card should then be stowed away to be kept safe with other important documents, like social security cards or passports.
Also, since the cards contain identifying information – like your name and date of birth – consider hiding this information if you post a selfie with the card online.
Will immunization records be digital in the future?
Several companies and private organizations are developing secure apps that will use an individual’s immunization records to check COVID-19 immunity – rather than letting people forever rely on a fragile piece of paper.
International standards will need to be established before a digital “vaccine passport” can be accepted worldwide. It’s “going to take work,” Brownstein said, but multinational organizations like the World Health Organization are reflecting on these challenges.
What should I do with online ads claiming to sell immunization cards?
Public health officials are seriously concerned about fraud in relation to these cards, which is another reason why digital verification can be important to the development of vaccine passports.
You should never buy a vaccination card online – even seemingly reputable sources are selling a scam product.
Is there a reason why I wouldn’t want a vaccination record?
Your local public health department already keeps a record of COVID-19 testing and immunization status under lock and key, so shredding that immunization card won’t gain you any more privacy.
And in the “new normal” as we come out of the pandemic, the vaccine card just might be your “ticket back to normal,” Brownstein said.
Leah Croll, MD, is a neurology resident at NYU Langone Health and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.
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