Do You Still Need Your COVID Vaccine Card?
When was the last time you needed to whip out your COVID-19 vaccination card? Chances are you probably don’t remember—and you’re not the only one.
At the height of the COVID pandemic, it was a lot more common to have to show your card to prove you were vaccinated when you were out and about. Concert venues, restaurants, sporting events at arenas and stadiums, and maybe your workplace were all common places to have to show your card. You also probably had it out along with your ID when you were traveling.
With the worst of the pandemic behind us, those vaccine cards in our wallets don’t hold as much importance as they once did and are probably collecting dust.
Is there any reason to even hold onto the physical proof that you’ve been vaccinated? Here’s what experts say about whether to toss or keep your COVID vaccine card.
Sharon Nachman, MD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, told Verywell that while COVID vaccine cards may not be as valuable as they were during the pandemic, they’re not worthless. But you probably won’t need them for admission into a venue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees, advising that people hang on to their vaccine cards since it’s proof of COVID immunization that could be needed for future healthcare-related decisions.
Vaccine cards are a part of your medical history just like when you take antibiotics for a rash or fall down and break your leg.
Knowing what type of COVID shot you got and when you got it could also be useful information to have at a later date.
“Vaccine cards are a part of your medical history just like when you take antibiotics for a rash or fall down and break your leg,” said Nachman. “Your provider will need to know that at some point in the future. So, I tell families to hold on to them and don’t throw them out.”
Kate Grusich, a spokesperson for the CDC, told Verywell that once the U.S. government stops distributing COVID vaccines, the current vaccination cards will no longer be given out. However, people will still be able to get a copy of their COVID vaccination records just like they can for other immunizations like flu shots.
“It’s important to have that discussion with your provider,” said Grusich. “Your provider might keep these records for a period of time; however, it is a good practice to keep copies of your records just in case you need them later on.”
During the pandemic, most people were keeping their cards at the ready in their bags or wallets, but Nachman said that’s not so much the case these days.
With fewer places requiring proof of vaccination, you probably don’t need to have your card on you at all times anymore. So, what do you do with it?
Nachman recommends keeping your physical vaccine card in a safe place at home—wherever you store other medical records and important documents. But before you tuck the physical copy away, you might want to scan it or snap a picture of it.
Nachman said you “should keep a digital file”—like a photo saved on your phone or a scanned document on your computer—as a backup. You may want to consider sharing a digital copy of your vaccination card with your provider’s office in case the physical card or its digital file goes missing.
“In case you lose your phone or your phone breaks or the card is lost in a catastrophic weather event, you should always have a backup to your backup because it is a part of your medical history,” said Nachman. “And we don’t know in the future what will be important for you.”
You’re probably not having to show your card to get into concerts, sporting events, restaurants, and other casual venues, but more formal establishments like educational institutions, workplaces, and healthcare facilities may still want to see proof of vaccination before letting you in.
Traveling is also still up in the air somewhat. While you no longer need to show proof of being fully vaccinated with an accepted COVID vaccine before boarding a flight in or to the U.S., Grusich said you should still do your research and make sure you have up-to-date info before you head off on a trip.
“Many other countries have also stopped requiring proof of vaccination status in order to gain entry,” said Grusich. “However, we recommend you check the requirements of a country you plan to travel to before departing the U.S.”
Nachman said you may want to hold onto your vaccine card if you’re traveling abroad. No one can predict when a winter COVID surge will strike or how bad it will be, and countries may opt to require proof of vaccination once again.
If you misplaced your vaccine card, Grusich said you can replace it in a couple of ways. First, you should contact your vaccination provider directly to ask for a new copy of your vaccination record.
If you can’t get in touch with your vaccination provider, contact your state health department’s immunization program. “Vaccination providers must report COVID-19 vaccinations to their state immunization information system (IIS) and related systems,” said Grusich.
Although your state’s IIS cannot give you a new vaccination card, Grusich said they can provide a digital copy of your vaccination record. If you bring your vaccination record to your primary care provider or vaccination provider, they might be able to give you a replacement card.
Grusich said that if you have questions about your vaccination records or cards, contact your state health department’s immunization program—not the CDC (no national organization maintains vaccination records).
You probably don’t need to show your COVID vaccine card often, if at all, these days, but experts say you shouldn’t throw it out. Just store it somewhere safe, like with your medical records or other important documents, in case you need it again in the future when making decisions related to your health.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting your COVID-19 vaccine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping your vaccine records up to date.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contacts for IIS immunization records.
By Alyssa HuiAlyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.