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What you need to know about your coronavirus vaccine cards and the future of passports

Once individuals are fully vaccinated, health care professionals recommend copying the vaccine card and storing it somewhere safe in case it is needed as proof of inoculation

The shadowy side of contradictory vaccine approvals and the concerning implications.
Once individuals are fully vaccinated, health care professionals recommend copying the vaccine card and that it’s all right to laminate the small document. Vaccine passports could be the key to relaxing pandemic restrictions, but the idea is receiving pushback from some politicians.
Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

Nearly a third of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and about 19% are now fully vaccinated against the deadly disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

That means more than 100 million COVID-19 vaccination record cards — and millions more every day — have been at least started, if not already given to inoculated Americans.

But what are each of us supposed to do with those cards and how important will they be to relaxing pandemic restrictions?

Should I laminate my vaccine card?

Health care officials are telling the inoculated to keep their vaccine record card safe, while governments and businesses consider using the documentation — or other “passports” — to relax pandemic restrictions.

And health care professionals say “go for it” if you’d like to laminate the completed card, but there are few considerations before rushing to an office supply store, MarketWatch reported.

  • “Make sure that your name and birthdate are correct, and that the card includes which vaccine you received, and the right date and location,” reported MarketWatch.
  • “At your first appointment, if anything looks wrong, make sure they write down the right information before you leave,” Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, the founder and head of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, told MarketWatch.

For months, Caplan has been suggesting people get their cards laminated, according to MarketWatch.

Dr. Leana S. Wen — an emergency physician and former Baltimore health commissioner — recommends taking a photo of the vaccine card and making a paper copy, just in case, CNN reported.

  • “Take a picture after getting the first shot, then after the second one too, in case you lose the physical card,” Wen told CNN. “Keep the picture on your phone, and email yourself a copy to be safe.”

After getting fully vaccinated and making copies of the card, “if you want to laminate your card, Wen says to ‘go for it,’” reported CNN. She also recommended storing it somewhere safe, like with other important documents.

If needed, there is still room on your vaccine card for booster shot information. But once the card’s been laminated, booster data will not be able to be recorded on the card. The professionals say not to worry.

  • Neither Caplan, Wen nor the CDC “expressed concern about laminating the cards,” according to MarketWatch.
  • Both doctors said if boosters are needed in the future, another card would probably be issued, reported MarketWatch.

It’s still unclear if — or how — state or local governments and businesses could use the vaccines cards as a way to ensure admittance to their facility or roll back self-induced pandemic restrictions.

America’s history of vaccine ‘passports’

The coronavirus isn’t the first deadly disease to sweep across the globe. And if health care and political leaders decide to require proof of inoculation for travel or large gatherings — whether in a paper or electronic document — it wouldn’t be the first time America has required a “vaccine passport,” Time Magazine reported.

  • During the late-19th and early-20th centuries, U.S. border officials “did not expect travelers to carry the identification documents that international transit requires today — but they did often require passengers to provide evidence that they had been vaccinated from smallpox,” according to Time.
  • In 1910, a Texas newspaper wrote that travelers crossing the border needed proof of smallpox immunity, either in the from of “a vaccination certificate, a properly scarred arm (result of a smallpox vaccine), or a pitted face (a side effect of surviving smallpox),” Time reported.

Vaccine passport resistance

On Tuesday, the White House confirmed that it would not implement a national “vaccine passport” system, doubling down on citizen privacy and business autonomy.

  • “The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a briefing Tuesday, according to The Hill. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
  • “Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is American’s privacy and rights should be protected so that these systems are not used against people unfairly,” said Psaki, reported The Hill.
  • The Biden administration “has been clear that it would defer to private companies if they wanted to implement some type of vaccine passport system,” The Hill reported.

The White House’s assurances come after some Republican governors have outright banned, or at least said they wouldn’t participate in, vaccine passport systems.

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued the executive order that “banned state and local government agencies and businesses from requiring so-called vaccine passports,” The New York Times reported.

  • “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” the Republican governor said Monday, according to the Times.
  • Businesses that require customers to provide proof of COVID-19 inoculation will be ineligible for state grants and contracts, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Other Republican governors, like Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts and Missouri’s Mike Parson have also opposed the idea of vaccine passports.

  • Ricketts has said Nebraska “would not participate in any vaccine passport program,” The New York Times reported.
  • Parson said Missouri “would not require vaccine passports in the state but was also not opposed to private companies adopting them,” according to the Times.