An infectious disease specialist explains your options, plus a helpful tip to prevent losing it in the first place.

By Brigitt Earley
June 10, 2021
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If you've received your COVID-19 vaccine, you know how liberating it feels to hold that little piece of paper that outlines your vaccination status in your hand. Your vaccine card, also referred to as a "vaccine passport," is your proof that, after more than a year, you'll finally be able to more safely engage in everyday activities and luxuries like travel.

Experts say that's precisely why it's necessary to hold onto your vaccine card. "Although many states in the U.S. banned requiring vaccine passports, many countries outside of the U.S. will not allow you to enter-and some cruise lines won't allow you to travel-without it," says Dr. Ramprasad Gopalan, an infectious disease specialist in Palm Beach County, Florida. What's more, some employers are requiring proof of vaccination before allowing employees to return to the workplace. (Yes, most companies have the right to mandate proof of vaccination, says Dr. Gopalan.) You may even find that friends and family require you to flash your vaccine card to attend gatherings, like a wedding, for example, Dr. Gopalan adds. The bottom line: We don't know what life after COVID-19 looks like just yet, so it's best to keep your proof of vaccination close at hand.

woman holding covid-19 vaccine card
Credit: Grandbrothers / Getty Images

So, what happens if you lose this precious piece of paper? "The place where you got vaccinated has your record and the lot number of your vaccine-and that information gets entered into an online database," says Dr. Gopalan. "They will be able to you provide you with information pertaining to proof of vaccination should you lose your card." If you can't get reach anyone at the facility-or if it has since closed-contact your state's Immunization Records department, says Dr. Sunitha Posina, a New York City-based internist. Facilities are required to report all vaccinations to the state's Immunization Information System (IIS), so they should have a record of yours.

To avoid this potentially stressful and time-consuming process, there are a few steps you can take to keep your passport safe. Rather than laminate it (experts say we may eventually need to add information, like boosters, to these cards), take a picture of your card and favorite it, so that it's easy to find in your phone's camera roll. Another good option is to make a photocopy, then tuck the original card into a plastic sleeve to protect it from tears of spills.

And when you go out, consider leaving the original at home in a safe spot, like your filing cabinet. If you're asked to display proof of vaccination, you can flash the picture on your phone or the copy you tucked into your bag.

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