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COVID-19 vaccine card is not an immunity passport. Here's the difference

After receiving the first shot, you'll get a coronavirus vaccination card -- but will it be your ticket to return to normal activities? Here's what we know.

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A look at the COVID-19 vaccine cards.

US Department of Defense
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Now that a COVID-19 vaccine is finally available in the US under emergency use authorization, tens of millions of Americans will be receiving their first shots of the coronavirus vaccine in the coming months. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses of the shot and will come with a COVID-19 vaccination card after your first injection is administered. But is that the same as an immunity passport to return to normal activities? What are the differences?

The wallet-sized vaccination cards will come with the coronavirus vaccination kits sent out from Operation Warp Speed, according to the US Department of Defense. The cards will be printed in both English and Spanish.

So what are coronavirus vaccination cards, and how will they differ from an immunity passport? We answer that and more below.

Read more: 8 coronavirus vaccine myths, debunked

What exactly is a COVID-19 vaccination card?

A coronavirus vaccination card is a wallet-sized card that details your personal coronavirus vaccine information. It's designed to be a helpful reminder for each person who receives the first shot to be aware of when they need to return to get the booster shot. 

For example, one vaccine may require that you come back three weeks later, while the other may require that you return in a month for the booster. 

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What is an COVID-19 immunity passport?

An immunity passport (or vaccine passport) isn't an official US document. Some posit it could serve as an official immunity certificate that would show your immune status after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and allow you to return to normal activities such as international travel. A vaccine passport could take the form of a physical card, a mobile app, a QR code or a sticker on a passport. 

With an immunity certificate, people could be able to return to the workplace and enter restaurants and stores, for example, and participate in less strict physical distancing measures, according to the Lancet.

Currently, immunity passports for coronavirus don't exist, as experts need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Your two vaccine shots will need to come from the same company.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How does a vaccination card differ from an immunity passport?

A COVID-19 vaccination card won't be the same as an immunity passport. Instead, it'll serve as a reminder to get your second shot of the vaccine. It also details which vaccine you received -- but that's all. It can't be used for any other purpose. Immunity passports have been used in other countries for different diseases, like polio, to give international travelers the OK to travel. The immunity passports would certify that an individual is immune to the coronavirus and can then give people more freedom to travel and socialize in public. 

What information will be on the vaccination card?

When you receive your first shot, the following information will be on the coronavirus vaccination card.

  • First and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Your patient number
  • The vaccine you received -- either Moderna or Pfizer
  • The date you received the first and second vaccine
  • Where you were vaccinated -- for example, a hospital or clinic

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine is flying high and on dry ice to reach you

How will doctors use the vaccination card?

The COVID-19 vaccine cards will be used to help medical providers keep track of which vaccine was administered to you, so that you receive the correct second dose from the same vaccine manufacturer. 

For example, if you receive the Pfizer vaccine in the first shot, you'll need to receive the Pfizer vaccine in the second shot. The same goes with the Moderna vaccine, since the two aren't interchangeable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PDF). This is because, while the two vaccines use the same technology that focuses on the mRNA of the virus, they're developed differently.

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Even if you've received the vaccine, you'll still need to wear a mask.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Does the COVID-19 vaccination card mean I can stop wearing a mask and social distancing?

No. Even after you receive both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, it's still recommended by the CDC that you continue to wear a mask while in public and social distance. "Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide," the CDC says, before it can make a decision on when to end mask wearing and social distancing.

For more information about the coronavirus vaccine, here's what to know about hidden costs, when you'll get it and how many doses you'll need. Also, here's who could get the vaccines first and more about the vaccines that could be here by the end of 2020.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.