Here's the Worrying COVID Vaccine Card the Government Is Planning To Issue


The rollout challenges on COVID-19 vaccines aren’t just logistical. There’s also the matter of uptake.

While the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were both over 90 percent effective in trials, polls found Americans divided over whether they’d take the vaccines for themselves. A survey from Pew Research, conducted between Nov. 18 and Nov. 29, found that 60 percent of Americans would definitely or probably get the coronavirus vaccine compared with 39 percent who definitely or probably wouldn’t.

This is up from 51 percent who said they would definitely or probably get it in the same poll in September, but it’s not a ringing endorsement — particularly given the poll was conducted after the Pfizer and Moderna trials showed the vaccines were effective.

So, what’s the best way to shore up confidence in the vaccination process?

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Not that. Pretty much the anti-that, in fact.

When the first images of the cards were rolled out by the Department of Defense on Wednesday, Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition, told CNN they were the “simplest” way to keep track of when one had received the shots.

“Everyone will be issued a written card that they can put in their wallet that will tell them what they had and when their next dose is due,” Moore said. “Let’s do the simple, easy thing first. Everyone’s going to get that.”

The card will be included in a vaccination kit with a needle, a syringe, alcohol wipes and a mask.

To a certain extent, reminders and coordination will be needed. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 inoculations require two doses staggered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively.

“Because different COVID-19 vaccine products will not be interchangeable, a vaccine recipient’s second dose must be from the same manufacturer as their first dose,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tongue-trippingly titled “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations” reads.

“Second-dose reminders for vaccine recipients will be critical to ensure compliance with vaccine dosing intervals and achieve optimal vaccine effectiveness. COVID-19 vaccination providers should make every attempt to schedule a patient’s second-dose appointment when they get their first dose.”

All right, except for this, as per CNN: “Vaccination clinics will also be reporting to their state immunization registries what vaccine was given, so that, for example, an entity could run a query if it didn’t know where a patient got a first dose.”

Also this: “Moore said many places are planning to ask patients to voluntarily provide a cell phone number, so they can get a text message telling them when and where their next dose is scheduled to be administered.”

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There was very little mention of how the cards will be used outside of this context, although the distrust on Twitter was pretty strong:

WARNING: One of the following tweets contain vulgar language that some readers may find offensive.

There likely won’t be. And if you think there’s a problem with people worrying about this, just remember other contexts in which asking for this kind of identification would be considered untenable:

So, who might be able to use this card to grant people entry or access to services?

In terms of air travel, the risk of getting it in the air is low, according to the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network. Beyond that, if you have to go abroad, you already have to have an immunization record to get certain visas. The card, in that case, would be superfluous, not to mention the fact this would likely be used domestically.

Will it be needed to return to school? Will you need it to enter certain stores or restaurants, or to go on public transportation? This would create a two-tiered system based on access to the vaccine; it’s too early to say how access would work, but it’s difficult to imagine a system which wouldn’t necessarily privilege certain people.

Now, NBC News made sure to highlight that “These vaccine cards are not intended to be used as a vaccine passport to get into bars, restaurants or airports.”

Do you plan on getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

“These are just for the person to have something to remind themselves of what vaccine they got that they can give to the provider when they come back to get their second dose,” the Immunization Action Coalition’s L.J. Tan said.

If this truly isn’t a matter of a vaccine passport but rather a redundant step in tracking who receives what dosages when, and we’re all just conspiracy theorizing and freaking out over nothing, there’s a very easy way to put an end to that kind of speculation: The CDC can explicitly state the cards aren’t to be used by establishments, public or private, to grant or deny access.

Yet, they’ve had months to consider the ethical considerations behind these cards and when they were rolled out, they chose not to do so. That alone spoke volumes.

The uncertainty around these cards don’t just give air to the worst of the fringe voices who’ve entertained febrile notions of microchips and shadowy cabals of baby-eating billionaires who invented the novel coronavirus in a laboratory (or whatever).

To Americans who have genuine concerns about the vaccine — fears that were explicitly encouraged for electoral gain by the Democratic Party, it must be noted, which had no problems stoking fear that President Donald Trump was deliberately rushing immunization if it gave them a better shot at the White House — the apprehensions generated by these cards make vaccine uptake that much more difficult.

Yes, we’ve seen the cards. Now we need to know exactly what they will — and won’t — be used for.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture