Some countries no longer accept paper CDC vaccine cards. Here’s how you can prove vaccination status

Aug 16, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 23, 2021 with new information

Americans who are vaccinated against COVID-19 have been closely guarding their physical paper card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proving that they got the shot.

Now, those physical cards might not be enough.

Although Turks and Caicos became one of the first major vacation destinations for Americans to require digital proof of vaccination, the islands walked back on their decision to make travel during the pandemic all the more complex by once again accepting paper vaccination records on Aug. 19.

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In the United States, the CDC vaccine card includes medical information such as the type of vaccine you received, the date you received it and where you were vaccinated. Some states keep online records of who has been vaccinated, with other states using digital health or vaccine passports.

While some countries have digital means to show if a person has been immunized against COVID-19, there is no similar system in the U.S. That means digitizing and verifying paper credentials has primarily been left to the private sector

The latest

(Photo by Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images)

Turks and Caicos, a group of 40 low-lying coral islands, announced that it would not accept handwritten vaccination cards for entry beginning Sept. 1, 2021. However, they reversed course on that decision on Aug. 19, to resume accepting paper vaccination records as proof of vaccination (including the CDC card) once again.

Additionally, vaccination letters signed by a doctor (specifying doctor’s registration or license number) and E-Cards, such as those from CVS, Walgreens, the National Health Service or similar sources are acceptable. It’s unclear if other digital health or vaccine passports, such as Clear’s Health Pass or New York State’s Excelsior Pass, will be accepted.

Obtaining proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, aside from the CDC card, may prove to be challenging for travel. Some states make it easy to see your records online, while some states don’t. But digital requirements raise questions about how the travel industry will verify vaccine cards from around the country and world.

Starting Sept. 1, all visitors age 16 and older to Turks and Caicos must be fully vaccinated, per Visit Turks & Caicos. This means at least 14 days must have passed after receiving your second dose of a two-dose shot or single-dose vaccine. Vaccines currently approved are Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Spikevax and Vaxzevria.

On the one hand, restaurants, venues, cities and countries have valid concerns about ensuring that a person who says they’ve been vaccinated actually is. On the other hand, these rules can complicate already arduous travel plans.

How to get digital proof of a COVID-19 vaccination

(Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Add your COVID-19 vaccine to your medical record

Destinations such as Turks and Caicos also accept vaccination credentials signed by a doctor. But as COVID-19 vaccines rolled out around the U.S., many Americans didn’t get vaccinated at their primary care physician’s office but rather at a state or federally operated facility. 

That means your doctor or insurance company may not even know you’ve been vaccinated. But many doctors’ offices and insurance companies allow members to upload proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to their systems. 

For instance, Kaiser Permanente members who got vaccinated outside of the facility can go online to answer a few questions to submit their COVID-19 vaccination record. The health insurance company also says that it is “accessing state immunization registries” to update members’ records with their COVID-19 vaccinations received outside of Kaiser. That means if even you got vaccinated outside of the facility, Kaiser would have your COVID-19 vaccination information in your medical record if you submitted that information. 

NYU Langone Hospitals patients vaccinated outside of the medical center can upload proof of vaccination into NYU Langone’s Health MyChart account. “This lets your care team know you’ve been vaccinated, and becomes the official digital record of your vaccination,” the hospital wrote online. However, to meet destinations like Turks and Caicos’ COVID-19 entry requirements, a doctor still needs to sign the vaccination proof. 

Check your city or state’s COVID-19 vaccine records

Fully vaccinated New York City residents who need verification of vaccine status can request a copy of their vaccination records by visiting My Vaccine Record. You can use your cellphone number or email address to search for your immunization record online. According to the city, printouts from My Vaccine Record are “official reports that can be used for school enrollment and verification, college admissions, camp enrollment and record of COVID-19 vaccination.”

New York State residents also have access to the Excelsior Pass, a vaccine passport to verify test or vaccination results. The Excelsior Pass is only available to people who received a test or were vaccinated in the state or New York residents whose healthcare provider entered their immunization information into state and city databases.

Other states and cities that allow residents to access their COVID-19 vaccination records (either online or through vaccine passports) include:

  • New Jersey
  • California 
  • Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Washington State and South Dakota all use a system called MyIR Mobile, which allows residents to review immunization history. 

However, it’s important to note that it’s unclear whether these digital options are accepted for entry into Turks and Caicos.

National drugstores

People who received a COVID-19 vaccine at a national drugstore may have more luck accessing a digital, verified vaccination record than a person who got inoculated at a drive-up vaccine clinic.

For instance, people vaccinated at Walmart can link their vaccination results to Clear Health Pass. Walmart also partners with the Commons Project’s CommonPass vaccine passport.

People vaccinated at CVS have a record of the vaccine received and the date administered, which they can access through the app or online. Vaccine records can also be printed or emailed. 

Additional reporting by Caroline Tanner.

Featured photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

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