Coronavirus cases are ticking back up in the U.S., but experts say it’s unlikely we’ll return to the era when COVID vaccine cards functioned like IDs to enter restaurants, see a show or board an international flight.
So can we finally clean out our wallets and say sayonara to those little white cards? Here’s what experts say.
Do COVID vaccine cards matter?
Dr. David Buchholz, senior founding medical director of Columbia Primary Care and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University, tells Yahoo Life he doesn’t think COVID vaccine cards matter anymore.
“There’s probably a couple of reasons why they don’t matter anymore,” he says. “First of all, no one’s ever asking [for COVID vaccine cards] anymore for entry into any sort of public area. The second piece is: COVID-19 is no longer a novel virus, and so starting this fall, I think there’s going to be this expectation that everyone gets a booster once a year, just like we do for flu shots. For those of us who have gotten like six shots, it’s probably no longer necessary for presentation to anyone other than maybe your doctor.”
Who might still need to show proof of vaccination?
But that doesn’t mean they’re totally irrelevant. Some people — including those who work in health care — will still need evidence that they’ve been vaccinated.
“There are populations that have to show proof of flu shot each year, and they will likely be the same people that will have to show proof of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Buchholz says. “Because I work in health care, I have to show evidence that I got a flu shot in order for me to see patients. The same thing has historically applied for COVID-19.”
People living or working in collective living settings such as college dorms or nursing homes are also likely to be required to show proof of immunization — although policies differ by region, state, city and even institution.
“There still are places that are requiring vaccine mandates — and remember, this is not something peculiar to COVID-19. For example, children have long been required to have vaccines for all kinds of infectious diseases in order to attend school,” Dr. Dean Winslow, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist at Stanford Health Care, tells Yahoo Life. “So I think keeping a comprehensive record of your vaccinations is sort of useful for everyone.”
For parents, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hold on to your child’s original COVID vaccine card. Your pediatrician can usually provide any proof of vaccination that a school or summer camp might require.
“Children get so many vaccines, particularly in the first 18 months of life, and then they start getting boosted at age 4. And COVID is just one of those many, many vaccines,” Buchholz says. “In most cases, the COVID-19 vaccine is documented along with all those other vaccines. And so you probably don’t need to keep the card in that case, because your doctor, who probably gave the vaccine, has all those immunization records.”
So what should I do with my card?
You no longer need to have your vaccine card handy every day — but don’t dump it just yet.
“I don’t think I would ever throw away personal health information, just in case,” Buchholz says. “Just like so many records that we keep, we may not look at them for years and years and years, and then we want it for some reason and we’ll wonder why we threw it away. So I would keep it in a safe place — like where I keep my Social Security card and my passport — and not throw it away.”
A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said you should treat your COVID vaccine card like any medical record and give a copy to your primary care provider while keeping one for yourself.
Winslow suggests taking a photo of your vaccine card and saving it on your phone, as an easy way to keep track of it.
“Most of us nowadays have iPhones or other smartphones that make it pretty easy to store data, and that eliminates the need to have a big piece of laminated paper in your wallet,” he says.
What if I’ve lost it?
If you do lose your COVID vaccination card, Buchholz says not to worry.
“If you lost yours, I don’t think I would be going out to purposely get one, unless you’re in a situation where you think you’re going to have to show proof,” he says. “Don’t throw it away, but if it’s lost, don’t necessarily work too hard to get it.”
Even though the CDC’s logo is featured on COVID vaccine cards, they won’t be able to help you get a new one if you’d like to replace yours. Some states have registries that include adult vaccines, but you may have better luck trying closer to home, by reaching out to your doctor’s office or the pharmacy chain that administered your vaccine. They won’t be able to give you another little white card, but they can provide you with some other kind of digital or paper verification that you’re vaccinated.
One easy way to get proof, Buchholz says, would be to get boosted with the bivalent shot that comes out this fall.
“Just get the booster, and you’re considered completely immunized,” he says. “You just have to have evidence of that one shot.”
Buchholz says that the “most likely place a person will get a COVID shot this fall will either be at their doctor’s office — and they always provide an after-visit summary or something that indicates any vaccines you got. Or, if you go to a pharmacy, if you ask, they always will give you a record of the vaccine that was just administered.”
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