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It’s a ticket to freedom.

The COVID vaccine card is the precious paper commodity worth protecting.

They’re making the rounds on social media. Some are framing them as memorabilia and others keeping them close in their wallet. The card will help us travel and see loved ones again. That’s why keeping it safe and backing it up is critical.

Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance. It may seem antiquated but a paper trail is standard when it comes to documenting vaccinations.

Dr Rahul Khare works at Innovative Express Care and said the card is “just as important as a passport your actual physical passport.”

“A lot of countries in Africa will require yellow fever (vaccine),” he said. “And we put this on a yellow vaccination card or to prove to work or school that you’ve had MMR or chicken pox – they will often ask for that vaccination card.”

They hand them out by the hundreds at Innovative Express Care on the city’s North Side.

“The card is really important,” Khare said. “First, it tells you the date that you got the vaccine, the type of vaccine and the lot number of the vaccine. So it’s really important to have that.”

Chicago Public School principal Vanessa Williams Johnson has big plans for her card.

“This will be laminated it will travel with me wherever I go,” she said.

But recipients should make a digital copy and keep it handy.

“One of the things I have to do is digitize this in some way,” Johnson said. “I want to scan so I have it on my phone, it’s in my email, it will be everywhere – scrap book. It will be everywhere so I can make sure I have this at all times.”

“It’s part of your medical records and it’s really important now because it can bring you freedom,” Khare said. “There are going to be more and more countries requiring vaccination or documentation of vaccination as well as work requirements, so this is an extremely important piece of paper.”

And if it gets lost, your provider can give you another copy.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls saying, ‘I lost my card. What do I do?’” Khare said. “If they are in our system, we give them another card.”

And there’s a tracking system called I-CARE, Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization registry exchange. All Covid vaccination centers report your doses to the state. 

“The I-CARE system is the gold standard proving that you got the vaccine (in Illinois),” Khare said.

Carmel Perkins forgot to bring the document to her second dose appointment

“I just forgot it this morning,” Perkins said. “I was up rushing and I didn’t know I needed to have it with me.”

But Perkins, a school administrator, card is safe and already in circulation.

“I was proud of my card so I took screen shots and sent it to my family and friends,” Perkins said.

Peyton Prep Principal Melissa Resh plans to show off her card on social media. 

“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “It’s the next step in getting back to some semblance of togetherness and connection. … I will absolutely tweet it out, show it off absolutely.”

Any risk in sharing the badge of honor?

“The only danger is (sharing) your name and birthday,” Khare said. “The type of vaccine doesn’t really matter. So honestly you may want to cover up (some information) but other than that, it’s a celebration. To me showing the card is not a big deal just don’t give identifying information.”

“Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to those who are kind of hesitant about the vaccinations that they’ll see that this is worthwhile,” Johnson said. “If not for you, for the safety of others. I’m hoping everybody sees the importance of this.”

There are concerns about forgery when it comes to the cards. That’s one of the reasons international airlines are working on ways to digitize the document for travelers. At the same time, several app developers are getting in the game working on their own platforms to preserve the cards digitally.