Should you laminate your CDC COVID-19 vaccine card?

Mar 31, 2021

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Now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States, people everywhere are wondering what they should do with their vaccine cards.

Right now, the only way to confirm a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19 is with a physical paper card from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, Americans are finding creative ways to protect their vaccine cards, from stowing them inside a safe to making digital copies. 

Some stores have even offered to laminate vaccine cards for free — but should you?

It depends on who you ask, really, because no agency has given a definitive answer. 

TPG reached out to the CDC, who referred questions about vaccine cards and travel to the White House, who referred questions about vaccine cards and travel to the CDC. The CDC has taken the lead on the distribution of the vaccine cards, while the response to the pandemic is led by the White House COVID-19 Response Team. We’ll update this story if either respond. 

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Can you laminate your CDC vaccine card?

(Photo by ArtistGNDphotography/Getty Images)

Certain destinations, tour operators and travel providers may require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, or accept proof of vaccination as an alternative to strict testing and quarantine requirements. 

Streamlining those processes is something the travel industry has been working on in the form of digital vaccine passports. You may not have to travel with your vaccine card in the future if you’re using a digital health app or vaccine passport. Many are still in development, so you’ll have to keep your vaccine card safe in the meantime.

Staples, Office Depot and Office Max will laminate your vaccine card for free, according to CNN. The Staples offer doesn’t have an expiration date, but the Office Depot offer is available through July 25, 2021, and you must bring a coupon to be eligible.

Many travelers TPG spoke to said they’d either laminated their cards or considered doing so. The CDC didn’t directly answer a TPG reporter’s question about whether people should laminate their COVID-19 vaccine cards, so there’s no guidance from the federal government right now. 

However, several travelers who reached out to TPG said they were either warned against laminating or irreparably damaged their cards after laminating. Travelers reported the stickers on their cards with vaccine information were thermal-sensitive and turned black after laminating.

It’s still unclear, however, whether people will need booster shots in the future, so some travelers are wary of laminating their cards.

“I’m not laminating [my card] in case they need to add a booster dose to it,” Michele LaFevre said in TPG’s Facebook group. 

Instead, you might want to consider using a clear badge if you’re worried about your card getting damaged, as one TPG reader suggested.

“[My card is] in a plastic badge holder, and stored in our safe with our passports and other important documents,” said Faith Dowgin. “We also scanned them and took [pictures].”

Related: 3 things to know about your CDC vaccine card

Keep your vaccine card safe

CDC Vaccine card and masks
Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination record card with masks, Minnesota. (Photo by: Michael Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

No matter what, you don’t want to lose or damage your vaccination card. 

That means you should treat it like you would your credit cards, driver’s license or passport. You should store it in a secure location, like a safe or a desk drawer, at all times. A friend of mine needed to have her vaccine card replaced after it got wet in her wallet, so if you plan to keep it on your person, make sure it doesn’t get damp or bent. 

The CDC recommends that vaccine administrators record vaccine information in a patient’s medical record. All COVID-19 vaccination providers are required to report data within 72 hours in their state’s immunization system.

So, there will likely be a back-up record of your vaccination status in the event you do lose your card.

Related: You finally got vaccinated: Here’s what you’ll need for a digital health passport

Bottom line

There’s been very little guidance about what people should do with their CDC COVID-19 vaccine cards after being inoculated. While it’s unclear, right now, whether travelers should laminate their cards, your best bet for keeping your card safe is to store it in a secure location until you absolutely need to use it.

Featured photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

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