As the highly transmissible omicron variant continues its rapid spread across the US, businesses, schools and government agencies across the country are requiring proof of full vaccination -- some including booster shots. In some cases, these mandates just apply to employees, but in others, customers and visitors must show they're up-to-date on their doses, too.
And if you're traveling abroad, verifying your current vaccination status is more important than ever.
But you don't have to keep the printed record in your wallet or purse: To avoid damaging or losing your vaccine card, you can easily store it on your phone.
Not sure how? We'll show you ways you can access your vaccine card digitally, whether you have an Android or iPhone -- and help you find out if your state has a specific vaccine-record app.
For more, check out how to replace a lost or damaged vaccination card and learn the latest vaccine and booster guidelines for kids
Which states use vaccine record apps?
While some governors have signed orders banning so-called "vaccine passports," many other states have apps that allow residents to keep digital versions of their vaccine cards on their phones. More than a dozen -- including California, Colorado, Hawaii, New York and Louisiana -- offer SMART Health Cards that store vaccination records and COVID-19 test results.
Colorado residents, for example, can download the myColorado app: After you verify your identity and add a digital version of your driver's license to your phone, you can add your myVaccine record to the app. (It can take up to 24 hours for your record to update, however.)
Louisiana's LA Wallet app takes a similar approach, allowing you to add both your driver's license and proof of vaccination to your phone, while Illinois residents can use VaxVerify, which uses Experian for identity verification.
New Yorkers have two app options, The Excelsior Pass and NYC Covid Safe, while New Jersey and Utah rely on the Docket app, available in the Apple Store or Google Play.
California requires residents to fill out a form to verify their identity, after which they'll receive a text or email with a link to a QR code that can be saved to their phone. When scanned, the code provides proof of vaccination.
MyIR Mobile is used by several state health departments, including Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia. (Washington state and Washington, DC, added the ability to self-report positive results from at-home COVID test kits to their versions.)
Alaska announced last spring it would be partnering with MyIRMobile on an app, but it's still not active according to the company website.
In November, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he would be unveiling a tool that allows residents to use a QR code to show they're fully vaccinated. "We've been working with a bunch of other states -- there's probably 15 or 20 of them -- to try to create a single QR code that can be used for all sorts of things where people may choose to require a vaccine," Baker told WGBH in Boston of the yet-to-materialize platform.
Oregon officials say the state will unveil its first digital immunization record in March 2022, Portland Monthly reported.
Virginia, Delaware, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Alaska, Connecticut, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Michigan are among the many states using web portals to let residents access their vaccination status online. (Indiana's vaccination portal has been offline for months.)
We'll continue to update this feature as more states offer apps and other features to store COVID-19 vaccine cards online. And remember: If you get a booster shot, you'll need to re-upload your vaccination record.
What if my state doesn't have an app that lets me store my card?
If your state doesn't have an iPhone or Android app that lets you store a copy of your vaccination record, there are other ways to keep it on your phone. What qualifies as valid proof, however, can vary by state, city, county or even individual business.
Some places may trust a photo of your physical vaccination card: Concert producer AEG Presents accepts a "physical copy of a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a digital copy of such card or such other proof as is permitted locally." But you definitely want to research first if your city, county or state does the same.
Along with many public schools, hundreds of private colleges are also requiring students and employees to be vaccinated: Seattle University, which requires students to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes, offers an online form to upload photos of the front and back of your vaccination card.
When in doubt, look for information on a business's website or call the local health department and ask for clarification. It's bound to save you time and lessen the risk of being turned away at the door.
Can I store my vaccine card with Google Pay or Apple Wallet?
If you have an iPhone, you can store your COVID-19 vaccine card on Apple Wallet and present it whenever you need to show you're fully vaccinated. (You can keep a copy in the Health app, too.) The WatchOS 8.1 update allows you to keep your card handy on your Apple Watch.
If you have an Android, you can add your vaccine card to the Google Pay app and even create a shortcut icon on your home screen to find it quickly.
Samsung Pay can also store your vaccine record
Samsung now gives Galaxy owners the option to add proof of vaccination to Samsung Pay. To access Samsung's Vaccine Pass, you can download either the IBM Digital Health Pass Wallet or the CommonHealth app from the Google Play Store and follow the prompts to verify your vaccination status.
Once the app confirms you've indeed gotten the jabs, you'll be prompted to download a Smart Health Card to Samsung Pay that you can show to anyone requesting you show proof of vaccination. It beats having to fiddle around with photo albums and tapping through multiple screens before you're able to show it to a bouncer or maître d'.
Will a picture of my vaccine card work?
The simplest way to have a digital record of your vaccine status is a photograph of your vaccination record on your phone. It's not 100% effective everywhere, but even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping a picture of your card as a backup copy.
You can make the photo a favorite to quickly locate it or store it in a notes app, a folder or somewhere easy to remember. Make sure you're in a well-lit area and get close enough to the card that the dates and other details are legible. Put the card on a dark surface and try to eliminate shadows from your arms or the phone itself.
Here's one way iPhone users can save their vaccination card as a new photo album: Open the Photos app, select the Albums tab and then tap the plus (+) sign in the top left corner followed by New Album. Give the album a name and then tap Save. Next, select the photos of your card to add them to the album.
On an Android, it depends on which app you're using, but the process should generally be the same. If you're using the Google Photos app, open the app and then select the picture of your vaccination card. Tap the three-dot menu button in the top-right corner, followed by the Add to Album button. Select +New album and give it a name such as "Vaccination Card" and tap the checkmark button when you're done.
What else can I use?
One popular option is the well-known airport security service Clear. In fact, some concert and exhibition halls require that attendees use Clear to verify their vaccination status to attend a show. You can go to clearme.com/healthpass to download the app and get your card added.
VaxYes is another service that verifies your vaccination status and then adds your vaccination card to your Apple Wallet. I've read that you can add your card to the Google Pay app, but after signing up and going through the process myself, I don't see the option on a Pixel 5 running Android 12.
If your local municipality or employer uses the CDC's Vaccine Administration Management System, then you can use the VAMS website to access your vaccination records. I've had more than one reader reach out to me about using this system to show proof of vaccination, but without an account myself, I'm unable to go through the process of accessing a vaccination record.
You can also use a scanner app on your phone and store a scanned copy of your vaccination card in something like your OneDrive personal vault or a password manager. (Almost all of them offer some sort of secure file storage.) On an iPhone, you can use the scanner built into the Notes app. On Android, Google's Stack PDF scanner will be enough to get the job done.
This story will be updated as the national vaccine conversation continues. For more information about the booster shots from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, make sure to read this primer.
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.