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Take care of that vaccination card, Tampa Bay. It could be your ticket to what’s next.

While debate rages over vaccination “passports,” health officials advise preserving that paper that says you got your shots.
An official COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.
An official COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. [ EJ HERSOM | Defense.gov ]
Published Apr. 5
Updated Apr. 5

So you’re now the proud owner of an official COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card — rectangular proof that you got inoculated against the deadly virus.

That card could also be the ticket to what’s to come when it comes to travel, group gatherings and the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s an important document,” said Tom Iovino, public information officer with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. “Keep it handy.”

Bigger than a credit card, it’s the official record of a person’s first and second COVID-19 shots, including when and where the vaccinations took place and which company manufactured the doses.

Besides the obvious benefit of being vaccinated against COVID-19, the card’s perks could reach well beyond Facebook likes and an offer from Krispy Kreme for a free glazed doughnut a day. In the coming months, the vaccine card could be a must-have.

Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut with proof of vaccination. Only one a day, please.
Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut with proof of vaccination. Only one a day, please.

The Miami Heat basketball team already has sections in AmericanAirlines Arena reserved for fully vaccinated fans. Required for admission: ID and a vaccine card. Other sports franchises may be considering similar moves. In South Florida, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival planned to require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.

In New York, when catered events and large venues reopen at reduced capacity, proof of vaccination or a negative test is required, the New York Times reported.

“There are going to be businesses and there are going to be places that start taking advantage of this,” said Thomas Unnasch, distinguished professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

Maybe an airline reserves flights for people who are vaccinated, he said, which “would make me a lot more comfortable getting on that flight.” He called the vaccination card “one more step in getting your life back.”

Late last week in Florida came a glitch: Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination. He said businesses that do won’t get state contracts or grants. The governor also supported making this the law.

Regardless of the impact of that order and the current debate over vaccine “passports,” it will remain important for people to keep their vaccination cards safe.

Hold on to that vaccination card.
Hold on to that vaccination card. [ GERALD HERBERT ]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people take pictures of their card. (Be sure to shoot both sides.) Those photos can also be emailed to yourself so there’s an extra copy.

If a vaccination card gets lost, the owner can contact the organization that provided the shots, such as CVS or Publix, or their state health department. Florida has a statewide immunization information database called Florida SHOTS to help healthcare providers and schools keep track of immunization records.

Along with T-shirts proclaiming “I Got My Fauci Ouchie!,” Amazon and Etsy are selling vaccine card holders to protect them from the elements, some with lanyards to hang around the neck.

Both Staples and Office Depot recently offered to laminate vaccine cards for free, making them sturdier and more durable for the long haul.

But locally, at least, there’s been a snag in that plan: Health officials in Pinellas County advised last week against lamination after about 20 people reported that some of the information on their cards was illegible afterward.

“While it may seem like a good idea, please do not laminate your CDC vaccination record card,” @HealthyPinellas tweeted Thursday.

The problem appeared to be labels that some vaccination sites affixed to the cards, Iovino said. The labels were made on a thermal printer and the heat of the lamination process caused letters and numbers to become unreadable, he said. (A Tampa Bay Times reader suggests using clear packing tape to protect your card, instead.)

Iovino advised making photocopies of your card and treating it as you do your Social Security card.

“Just keep it someplace safe with your birth certificate,” he said.