Guard your COVID vaccine card. Looks like you’re going to need it

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Registered Nurse Rita Alba points out to Beltran Orlando the return date on his vaccination card

Registered Nurse Rita Alba points out to Beltran Orlando the return date on his vaccination card while he rests in the recovery area after his receiving the first dose of coronavirus vaccine at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at the Bronx River Addition NYCHA complex, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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With 16% of the U.S. population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 now and more to come, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a vaccine card could become your most valuable possession — the equivalent of the golden ticket.

Some travel destinations and cruise lines are already requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, and President Joe Biden’s administration is in the process of developing a system, known as “vaccine passports,” in which people would have to prove they’ve gotten their full doses. There isn’t any kind of mandate yet, but if you’ve gotten your shot, it could be a good idea to laminate your vaccine card or have digital copies for safekeeping. There are already incentives in place, like Krispy Kreme offering free doughnuts to people who have either been partially or fully vaccinated.

Camden County Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. is a vocal supporter of having proof of vaccination with you everywhere you go. It could be the new normal, he told WHYY News.

“There’s a potential in the future for it to be a requirement to get into certain events or places or back to school,” said Cappelli. “Rutgers University has already made their announcement that you need to be vaccinated, and since we don’t know exactly how and when this virus is going to gain strength or disappear or come back, I think it makes good sense, to make sure you keep your card at the safe place and have it available for future use.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy took it a step further and clarified his recent comments about supporting “vaccine passports” on CNBC, encouraging people to get them laminated. “In terms of what value the card will have other than your own personal health, to be determined, but that is under consideration and there are lots of different potential uses for that, whether it’s going to a sporting event, getting on a plane, etc.,” Murphy said.

Though some have questioned whether laminating the cards is a good idea, the CDC recently said it’s perfectly fine. It also suggests taking a photo of your vaccine card as a backup copy.

Some office supply chains are even laminating vaccination cards for free. Nationwide, Staples is offering to laminate free of charge until May 1 when you use the coupon code 81450. Office Depot is offering to laminate for free until July. And for those who’d rather use an alternative method to protect their vaccine cards, clear protectors are available through Walmart and Amazon.

Keeping a physical copy of your vaccine card could be important, but we are living in an age where digital copies of any documentation have become the new norm. New York, for instance, has already launched the Excelsior Pass to store vaccination proof or negative test results, as part of the state’s reopening efforts. There is also a coalition of tech and health care companies called the Vaccination Credential Initiative whose stated aim is to provide convenient access and control of immunization records to safely return to work, school, events, and travel.

Pharmacies such as Walmart and Walgreens also digitally store vaccination records. John Furner, CEO and president of Walmart, said in a press release: “Our goal is to give customers vaccinated at Walmart free and secure digital access to their vaccine record and enable them to share that information with third parties seeking to confirm their vaccination status.”

So far, states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have no official plans to make proof of vaccination a requirement to enter spaces. The Pennsylvania Department of Health said that while it strongly suggests that state residents get the vaccine, it is looking to the federal government for recommendations on a vaccine passport initiative.

From his vantage in New Jersey, Cappelli is urging everyone to do this much: “Get vaccinated, go get your card. We’re in a race right now against these variants, and we need to win the race.”

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