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Don't lose your COVID-19 vaccine card -- you'll need it in these situations

Your vaccine card is the best proof of vaccination. Here's what you need to know about it.

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COVID-19 vaccination card and face mask on table

Your vaccine card is important proof of vaccination that you'll want to keep safe and carry when you travel.

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When you receive your COVID-19 vaccination, you'll receive a COVID-19 vaccine card that shows your personal information, the date you were vaccinated and the type of vaccine you received. While the debate over whether a digital vaccine passport is a good idea or not continues, your vaccine card is the best evidence to show proof of vaccination.

Once you get a vaccine card, you'll need to keep it in a safe place for when you'll likely need it -- whether you are traveling or want your free Krispy Kreme donut. Keep reading below to find out more about what to do with your vaccination card, what to do if you lose it and if you should laminate it.

What you need to know about your vaccine card

Your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card shows proof of your vaccination: your name, date of birth, which vaccine you received and when you were vaccinated. The card is currently the main proof of vaccination -- although some states like New York are developing digital vaccine passports, and cruise lines and airlines may require them in the future. For now, the vaccine card is the most important proof of vaccination, and you should keep it in a safe place and take it with you when you travel.

"The vaccine card is important because we don't quite know what the future of travel and socializing publicly, with or without masks, looks like," says Dr. Vivek Cherian, a Baltimore-based internal medicine physician.

"Always have a copy of your card on hand (particularly when you travel) because you never know when you may be asked to provide proof of vaccination. Keeping it easily accessible in your carry-on, purse or computer bag is best," says Cherian.

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What to do if you lose your vaccination card

If something happens to your vaccine card or you lose it, you should first contact the site where you were vaccinated and ask for a replacement. Wherever you were vaccinated -- even if it's a pharmacy or drive-thru vaccination site -- will have your records on file. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends reaching out to your state's immunization information system if you're having trouble getting a replacement card.

"The most streamlined course of action is to contact the clinic/location where you received your vaccine, and request a duplicate record. A few of my colleagues have already done this and had no issues," says Cherian.

Should you get your vaccination card laminated? 

Right now, there's no solid answer about whether you should laminate your vaccine card. Some say that laminating it is not a good idea since you won't be able to add another vaccine dose to the card -- and vaccine booster shots are likely. Others say that laminating your card is OK if you are worried about it getting damaged or soiled. Staples and Office Depot are offering free vaccine card lamination for those who want it.

Cherian does not recommend laminating vaccine cards for several reasons. "Lamination of your vaccine card can smudge the ink; that can make your card difficult to read," he says. 

"If you've received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will need a second dose that needs to be updated on your card," he continued. "Also, there's a possibility that in the future we may need booster shots, which would also need to be updated on the vaccine card."

What to do with your vaccine card

Once you receive your vaccine card, take a photo of it on your phone in case you misplace it. Then make sure to keep it in a safe place. Take note of where and when you might need to show proof of vaccination (see below) and bring your card when it's required. 

"I encourage all my patients and family members to make a few copies of their vaccine card (front and back). Keep the copies in a safe location," says Cherian. He also advises against posting a photo of your card on social media since the personal information on the card could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Man holding vaccine card and passport

You may be required to show proof of vaccination when you travel, especially internationally.

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Will you be required to show your vaccine card to anyone? 

As of right now, the most likely situations that you'd need to show your vaccine card is for travel (especially international) and to attend large gatherings, like concerts and sporting events.

"For international travel it's important to inquire whether your vaccine card will be needed for each leg of your journey," says Cherian. As of now, some cruise lines have said they will require vaccination proof, and airlines may soon join. When you travel, you should always check with your specific airline and destination since requirements may vary based on where you are traveling and how. 

"Currently there are no federal or state requirements/circumstances where people need to show their vaccine card. As the economy continues to reopen, it's certainly possible (even likely) some employers may require that their employees show proof of vaccination before returning to or starting a new job," says Cherian.

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.