The Covid-19 vaccination certificates that once determined who could participate in society are being phased out.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discontinuing its COVID-19 vaccination certificates, according to an October 4 website update.
Considered a controversial relic of the COVID-19 pandemic era, the white cards once determined who could and could not partake in society, such as by restricting or allowing access to businesses, schools, and workplaces based on vaccination status.
Similar requirements became widespread and controversial across the globe, leading to criticisms of a two-tiered economy in some regions.
As the federal government is no longer responsible for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the CDC has ceased producing the cards. According to the agency, from the peak of pandemic restrictions in late 2020 to May 10, the federal government sent out more than 980 million cards.
As their necessity has long since passed, federal and local health officials do not anticipate the removal of the cards to be a significant change.
In 2021, following the announcement of vaccine mandates by President Joe Biden, the ubiquitous white cards spawned a black market industry, and U.S. authorities made certain actions in support of this market unlawful. In December 2021, New York even made forging a vaccination card a Class D felony, with violators facing anywhere from probation to seven years in prison.
In that year, the FBI announced that the purchase, sale, or use of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards was a felony punishable by a fine and up to five years in prison. Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection blocked shipments of counterfeit cards from China.
In a recent case, a federal court found a former Chicago pharmacist culpable of stealing and selling authentic COVID-19 vaccination cards on eBay in June.
The cards will continue to be acceptable as evidence of vaccination. In the future, however, individuals will be required to seek their immunization records from the health department, a clinic, or a pharmacy, just as they would for any other vaccination.
Heidi Gurov, a nurse consultant at the Wyoming Department of Health, advises individuals to treat vaccination cards as they would any other essential health record and to store them in a “safe location.”
States and certain municipalities maintain immunization registries nationwide, but the procedures for record inclusion and access vary. Depending on the state’s regulations, immunization records from mass vaccination efforts during the early pandemic days are typically stored in these registries. There is no national registry of immunization records in existence.
State approaches to immunization records diverge. In Texas, for instance, patient consent is required, whereas in Wyoming and Philadelphia, providers are required to record vaccinations. Numerous states offer digital records via apps or websites, allowing users to save certificates or QR codes as proof of vaccination, with some offering tracking and reminders for upcoming doses.
A person who has forgotten his or her vaccination card can typically request immunization records from the location where the vaccine was administered or from the state registry. Additionally, some jurisdictions offer digital vaccination cards.