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Proof of COVID Vaccination – Where, When, and How

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On October 25th the White House issued a proclamation that will lift flight restrictions from certain countries and on November 8th replace it with a requirement that all non-resident passengers travelling to the United States present proof of vaccination before boarding the aircraft. Although children and adolescents less than 18 years old are exempt, they must provide proof of a negative COVID test within three days of travel if they cannot document COVID vaccination. This also includes United States citizens returning from another country

For United States citizens who wish to travel there are many countries that will require proof of COVID vaccination to enter.

Rapid COVID Testing – An Effective Preventive Measure discusses the role of testing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. This article will provide information on the situations where proof of COVID vaccination is required and how to go about obtaining the correct documentation.

Where and When Documentation Will Be Needed

In the United States there are many situations where proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative COVID test is or will soon be required. Some are federal mandates, but most are state specific. Even while Arizona, Florida, Idaho, and Texas are prohibiting mandates that don’t apply to federal employees or healthcare workers who take Medicare and/or Medicare, it is still unclear whether they are legally able to prevent private businesses and schools from doing so.

Vaccinated individuals need to show proof of vaccination if they work at federal agencies and/or government contractors. Healthcare workers — including employees of emergency medical services (EMS) and ambulance agencies, nursing homes, hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies that get payments from Medicare and Medicaid — will soon need this proof. Documentation of COVID immunizations will also be required of those who work in businesses with 100 or more employees and those applying for permanent U.S. residency. The White House has set January 4, 2022 as the deadline for these requirements to be in place.

Many individual states and cities are creating similar mandates for their employees. Some are also mandating proof of vaccination or negative test results for healthcare workers, prison guards and staff, individuals entering an indoor public space such as restaurants, movie theaters, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, stores, gyms, spa, or salons or attending a large outdoor event.

When allowed by the state, many companies, facilities, theme parks, universities, and K-12 schools not covered by the federal mandate are also requiring vaccination and/or periodic testing for their employees. Legal challenges to these mandates have been unsuccessful for the most part.

How to Get Valid Documentation

There are no digital records of COVID vaccinations at the CDC or in your medical records that those requesting proof of immunization can refer to, so those who will need documentation require a valid document that will be acceptable anywhere. The document could be physical or digital.

Physical Documents

The most available documentation is the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card that you received after your first immunization and used again to record any subsequent vaccinations/booster. The card should include your name, the date and location of your shot, and the vaccine type along with the lot number.

While everyone will have gotten one, they are made of paper and can degrade over time and are easy to lose/misplace or leave at home. While you may consider protecting yours by getting it laminated, there are drawbacks. If you can, it is better to get a copy to be laminated. Another possibility is putting it in a plastic sleeve or badge/card holder and only removing it when you need to have your booster recorded.

You may have been given a printout with the same information that’s on the CDC card that you can use to replace the card if lost or destroyed. If not, you will need to contact the persons/clinics/organizations where you got the shot who should have their own records about your vaccination(s). For this reason, you should only carry the card when you think you will need it.

Unfortunately these cards are easily forged and may need to be replaced with more secure methods as more businesses are trying to protect their patrons and employees.

Digital Documents

There are some digital options that allow you to easily bring up your vaccine information for viewing when needed. The easiest one is to store/backup the card by taking a picture of your card with your phone and putting it in an easily accessed folder. 

There are smartphone apps called vaccine wallets or vaccine passports that can store and verify your immunization records. Some can also store COVID-19 test results and/or remind you when your next shot is due. There are many choices such as AOKpass, Clear Health Pass, CommonPass, GoodRx Care, IBM Digital Health Pass, International Air Travel Association Travel Pass, VaccTrack, VaxText, VaxYes, and VeriFLY. “Best vaccine passport apps to download” may be a helpful resource.

Many businesses, some states — including California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York (Excelsior Pass), and Utah — and many cities have their own portals or apps where your information can be uploaded and accessed when needed. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens keep digital records that you can directly access your information from. Many of these contain validation information that make them more secure and acceptable to those looking at proof.

Most states have a vaccine registry or Immunization Information System (IIS) that contain records of immunizations given by healthcare providers. Some of those states require providers to submit all immunizations given to their patients to the IIS, while others do not. You can check the CDC website’s Contacts for IIS Immunization Records page for details in your state.

The CDC has created Access Vaccination Certificates in VAMS. The Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI) has been working with a variety of public and private organizations to make vaccination records more accessible online. The initiative is being headed by The Commons Project.

If you plan to go to public places or travel it will become increasingly important to be aware of the requirements for proof of vaccination (or COVID-19 test results) for where you are going before you leave the house. While your COVID-19 Vaccine Record Card is the easiest way to provide this proof, the limitations of a paper record and the evolving need for better validated proof are prompting the development of multiple digital means of storing and presenting vaccination information.  

The NeedyMeds website has a database of over 100 nationwide resources for those who have been impacted by COVID-19. For those looking for information on receiving a coronavirus vaccine, search online for your state’s requirements, area’s locations, and appointment availability. There may be options for children to get vaccinated even if their parents don’t grant permission

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