You’re fully vaccinated and you’ve got a little paper card to prove it. So what to do with this precious evidence of immunity? Tempting as it might be to laminate the card for posterity and protection, you probably shouldn’t—it may need an update soon.
There are ongoing discussions, both in the U.S. and abroad, about the best way to distinguish people who are fully vaccinated—and therefore unlikely to get or spread covid-19—from those who aren’t, particularly while traveling. But there remains no clear standard nor universal agreement that “vaccine passports” are even a great idea to begin with. For now, the paper vaccination card you get after your first dose (or only dose, if you took the Johnson & Johnson one-and-done shot) is the only readily available proof that you’ve had the vaccine.
Understandably, people will want to ensure that their card remains intact for the foreseeable future, and one common solution has been to laminate it. Already, companies like Staples and Office Depot have seized the opportunity for good PR by offering to laminate cards for free. And at least some reputable sources have suggested lamination as a fine option.
But if you take a closer look at your card, you’ll see pretty quickly why you shouldn’t laminate it. Namely, there’s still room for more doses to be marked down.
Right now, there are strong signs that vaccine-provided immunity against the coronavirus will last for quite some time and may even be stronger than natural immunity. There’s also good evidence that all of our vaccines provide robust protection against new variants of the virus that have started to emerge since late last year. But viruses are always evolving, and many scientists do expect that we’ll eventually need to boost the immune system so that it can still recognize the changing threat. This might not need to happen every year, like with the flu vaccine, but that’s uncertain at this point. Both vaccine-makers and public health experts have agreed booster shots could be needed.
There’s also the chance that some vaccine schedules could change in the near future. Johnson & Johnson is currently in the middle of a trial testing out whether two doses of its vaccine is more effective than one dose. Depending on the results, that might lead to recommendations that people who took the single-dose vaccine go back for a second shot.
But there are some great ways to protect your card without laminating it. Public health experts widely recommend that people take a photo of their card for digital preservation, and you can still put the card in a handy lanyard or other removable plastic sleeve.
If you’re already gotten the card laminated, it’s not the end of the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in need of a replacement card reach out to their vaccine provider. And if unable to contact them, you can try talking to your local state health department’s immunization information system. By law, every vaccination should be recorded and kept in their database.