How to

Leave your COVID vaccine card at home: 8 ways to safely store it on your phone

You want to show proof of vaccination, but the card is easy to lose or damage.  


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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

With new vaccine mandates that span government workers and school districts to larger employers, the need to keep your COVID-19 vaccine card handy becomes more and more important. That goes for kids, too, who shortly may be eligible for the vaccine.

And it’s not just at the federal level. Cities and counties across the country are requiring proof of vaccination to attend live indoor events and enter gyms, restaurants and bars.

The vaccines continue to be highly effective in preventing hospitalization. Over the summer, as the delta variant spread across the US, the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths climbed. Unvaccinated people have accounted for nearly all the hospitalizations and deaths — over 97% as of July. With the federal mandates, the Biden administration aims to stem the surge and put pressure on those who are eligible but not yet vaccinated.

That rectangular paper card you received when you were vaccinated will suffice to prove that you’re vaccinated. (And if there’s still room on the card, it can show you got a booster shot from Pfizer or Moderna and Johnson & Johnson when those are available.)

But what if you lose it, or it’s damaged or stolen? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t have a record of your vaccination status. We do know how to get a new vaccine card if yours is lost or damaged.

Rather than carrying around the card — or laminating it, which prevents your health care provider from updating it with future booster shots — take a few minutes to add a digital copy of your vaccination card to your phone. Here are a few options I’ve found while researching how to safely store mine. 


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There isn’t one approved way to show proof of your vaccination card

The US doesn’t have a single online system or app you can use to show proof of vaccination on your phone. Instead, what qualifies as proof varies by city, county and even business. Some places may accept a picture of your vaccination card; others may require you to use an app that’s authorized at state level. 

It’s a confusing mess, to put it mildly. I strongly urge you to take a few minutes to research what your city, county or state will accept as proof, as it can vary. 

For example, concert producer AEG Presents will accept a “physical copy of a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a digital copy of such card or such other proof as is permitted locally.”

Along with school mandates, many colleges are are also requiring students and employees to be vaccinated. Seattle University, for example, requires students to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes via an online form that uploads photos of the front and back of the vaccination card.

When in doubt, look for information on the business’s website, or call the local health department and ask for clarification. This is bound to save you time, headaches and being turned away at the door.

Have an iPhone or an Android phone? Here’s an easy way to save your card

If you have an iPhone, with an update coming soon for iOS 15 you’ll be able to add your vaccine card to your Apple Wallet to present to whenever you need to show you’re fully vaccinated. (You can keep a copy in the Health app right now.)

Over on Android, you can add your vaccine card to the Google Pay app. I need to remind myself each time where my card is in Google Pay, so I added a shortcut icon to my home screen to quickly find it.

Own a Samsung phone? There’s an app just for you

Samsung now gives Galaxy phone owners the option to add proof of vaccination to Samsung Pay, its wallet app. By having direct access to your vaccination record, you won’t have to fiddle around with creating photo albums and tapping through multiple screens before you’re able to show it to a bouncer at your local watering hole. 

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Samsung Galaxy device users can store proof of vaccination in Samsung Pay by downloading the CommonHealth app.


Samsung

To add your card to Samsung Pay, you’ll need to download the CommonHealth app (Samsung’s partner) from the Google Play Store. Follow the prompts in the app to verify your vaccination status. Once the app confirms you’ve indeed gotten the shots, you’ll be prompted to download a Smart Health Card to Samsung Pay. 

That card is what you’ll then show to anyone requesting you show proof of vaccination. 

Use your phone to take a clear photo of your card

Is that too much fuss? The simplest way to have a digital record of your vaccine status is to snap a picture of your vaccination card and keep it on your phone. The CDC even recommends keeping a picture of your card as a backup copy. 

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Taking a photo of your card — front and back — is the quickest and easiest way to store it on your phone. 


Sean Booker/CNET

Simply use the camera app on your phone to snap the photo. You can favorite the photo to quickly locate it or store it in a notes app, a folder or somewhere that’s easy to remember so you don’t have to endlessly scroll your camera roll to find it. Make sure you’re in a well-lit area and get close enough to the card that its dates and details are legible. I also suggest putting the card on a dark surface, while remaining conscious of shadows of your arms or the phone on the card itself. 

Here’s an example of one way to save your vaccination card as a new photo album. On an iPhone, open the Photos app, select the Albums tab and then tap the + sign in the top left corner followed by New Album. Give the album a name and then tap Save. Next, select the photos of your card to add it to the album. 

On an Android phone, it depends on which app you’re using, but the process should generally be the same. If you’re using the Google Photos app, open the app and then select the picture of your vaccination card. Tap the three-dot menu button in the top-right corner, followed by the Add to Album button. Select +New album and give it a name such as “Vaccination Card” and tap the checkmark button when you’re done.

Excelsior and more: Look for apps based on your location

Some states — including California, Colorado, Hawaii, New York and Oregon — offer some form of digital vaccination card. The myColorado app requires you to create an account, verify your identity and then add your digital driver’s license to your phone. After you’ve done that, you can then add your myVaccine record to the app. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Louisiana’s LA Wallet app takes a similar approach to Colorado’s, allowing you to add your driver’s license and proof of vaccination to your phone. 

California’s implementation requires you to fill out a form to verify your identity, after which you’ll receive a text message or email with a link to a QR code you can save to your phone. When scanned, the code will offer proof of vaccination. The link will also include a digital copy of your vaccination record. 

MyIR Mobile is another app used by several state health departments to provide a digital copy of your vaccination card. Currently, if you live in Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Washington, West Virginia or Washington, DC, this is the app you’ll use. 

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The Notes app on the iPhone has a built-in scanner that makes it really easy to quickly scan your vaccination card and store a copy. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

More options to create and store your digital vaccination card

I’ve had a large number of readers reach out to me about this article, each one offering advice and guidance about storing a proof of vaccination card. 

Some suggestions include well-known airport security service Clear. In fact, some concert and exhibition halls are requiring attendees use Clear to verify their vaccination status to attend a show. You can go to clearme.com/healthpass to download the app and get your card added. 

VaxYes is another service that verifies your vaccination status and then adds your vaccination card to Apple Wallet. I’ve read that you can add your card to the Google Pay app, but after signing up and going through the process myself, I don’t see the option on a Pixel 5 running Android 12. 

If your local municipality or employer used the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System, then you can use the VAMS website to access your vaccination records. I had more than one reader reach out to me about using this system to show proof of vaccination, but without an account myself, I’m unable to go through the process of accessing a vaccination record. 

Another suggestion I received from multiple readers is to use a scanner app on your phone and store a scanned copy of your vaccination card in something like your OneDrive personal vault or a password manager (almost all of them offer some sort of secure file storage) instead of storing the photo in Google Photos or Apple’s iCloud photos. On an iPhone, you can use the scanner that’s built into the Notes app. On Android, Google’s Stack PDF scanner will be enough to get the job done.

This story updates as the national vaccine conversation continues. For more information about the forthcoming booster shots, make sure to read this. We have up-to-date details about the delta variant, as well as delta plus and the lambda variant.

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