Vaccine cards have become commonplace in the past few months: As more people receive their vaccinations, some have been eager to share the moment on social media, and some companies are even giving away freebies if you can prove you've been vaccinated.
With the cards have come questions: What happens if the card, which is the only physical proof someone has of vaccination, gets lost or damaged? Should people really be sharing a selfie with the card on social media? Do people need to carry their card with them, or is it OK to leave it at home?
We answered some of the most common questions about COVID-19 vaccine cards.
What information is on your COVID-19 vaccine card?
Your coronavirus vaccination card includes personal information like your full name and birthday, and information about where you received the vaccination, like the lot number of the vaccine. According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious disease physician, this information can be used to figure out the location of where you were vaccinated.
Should you share your COVID-19 vaccine card on social media?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned, in a statement, that sharing this information could leave people "vulnerable to identity theft" or "help scammers create phony" cards.
If you do want to share that you were vaccinated, try sharing something that doesn't include your personal information, like a selfie at the vaccine site or a picture of the sticker you may receive. The BBB also recommends potentially adding a COVID-19-themed frame to your Facebook profile picture.
Should you laminate your COVID-19 vaccine card?
There is conflicting advice about whether or not to laminate your vaccine card: While some have cautioned against it in case people need a booster shot, others think it can keep the card protected, and some companies like Staples and Office Depot are offering free lamination services.
"I didn't laminate my card," said Adalja, who noted that similar cards for yellow fever vaccines "have existed for a long time" and "most people don't laminate those."
"Some people like to laminate everything, so they might just do that," Adalja said. "I don't think you necessarily have to laminate it. It's not like it's as important as your Social Security card or your driver's license."
What should you do if you lose your COVID-19 vaccine card?
While vaccine cards are important, Adalja said they aren't irreplaceable — if you lose or damage the card, it should be possible to find a replacement.
"(The card) is not the only place that information exists," Adalja said.
If you do lose it, first try contacting the site where you were vaccinated, since they would likely have a record of your visit. You could also contact your state immunization registry, a system that exists for various vaccines and allows health departments to keep track of who has been vaccinated against illnesses.
"The easiest thing to do is go back to the place where you got the vaccine, and ask them to pull the record and re-create the card if you want the card," said Adalja.
Where should you store your COVID-19 vaccine card?
While it is possible to replace vaccine cards, keeping them in a secure place can prevent loss or damage. Adalja said that he keeps his with his yellow fever vaccine card and passport.
"I don't have it with me all the time," he said, noting that you don't need to carry a card with you unless you want to show it off (or stop at Krispy Kreme for a doughnut).
Any secure place where you keep documents is good as long as you know where the card is and it's not likely to be damaged.
How do COVID-19 vaccine cards differ from vaccine passports?
The idea of vaccine passports — using information about vaccination for travel, work or other activities — has become controversial in recent weeks, though Adalja pointed out that some countries have mandated proof of vaccination against other diseases in the past.
Some colleges have already announced that students will have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to come to campus, like they do for other illnesses, and other settings, like cruise lines, may set similar requirements.
However, Adalja said that vaccine cards are not likely to become vaccine passports.
"All this is is a flimsy piece of paper, it's not some kind of official document," said Adalja.
If a vaccine passport system is developed, it would likely be a "more secure" or "durable" document, Adalja said, noting that his yellow fever vaccine card is on a sturdier piece of paper.
"I think eventually you might see some private businesses that want to know vaccine status ... and I think that these cards might form the basis for that but I think it's probably more cumbersome to have it be this physical piece of paper," said Adalja, who noted that an app or other digital form might be used.
New York State has already developed a program, the Excelsior Pass, that allows people to show their vaccination status on their phone or on a printed sheet of paper; Israel has a similar system in place. The Biden administration announced last week that they would not develop a digital vaccine passport.