As of Thursday, roughly 8.4% of Americans had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; 2.1% had received both. And the post-vaccination selfie has already become a thing: As people get their shots, many are heading to social media to share a smiling selfie, tweet, or even a photo of the card “proving” their immunity. But the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released a warning: Celebrate your immunity all you want, but don’t post your vaccination cards online.
These vaccination cards and printouts are given out after your first shot, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Your card should list your full name, birthday, and the date and location of your vaccination. It will also signal whether you received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine — which is important, because it indicates which vaccine you’ll need next. “Once you start the series, you have to get the second shot by the same drug manufacturer,” Lisa Meadows, director of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Healthy Kids Outreach Programs at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, told Heathline.
The cards have a simple purpose: They’re meant to provide your doctor (and you) with information about your vaccine. But people have started viewing them as badges of immunity; many have even joked about framing their cards. And often, when you want to celebrate something, you log onto social media, which has led to countless Twitter and Instagram users accidentally revealing personal information online. “Unfortunately, your card has your full name and birthday on it, as well as information about where you got your vaccine,” wrote the BBB. “If your social media privacy settings aren’t set high, you may be giving valuable information away for anyone to use.”
According to the BBB and other experts, the main concern with this is identity theft. But sharing these pictures could potentially pose another risk down the road: falsified vaccination cards. For now, the only official use for these cards is to tell people when they're getting their second shot, and to tell doctors what type of shot they need. In facts, experts have warned against people treating the cards like “immunity passports,” as The Washington Post puts it. If employers were to require that workers show a card before returning to the office, for instance, people would have incentive to fake or sell their own cards.
"A black market in forged cards could emerge. And there would be powerful incentives for people to find ways to cheat the system to get the shot sooner," Nita Farahany, a Law and Philosophy Professor at Duke University, wrote in The Washington Post. “Such scenarios underscore why, for now, the health secretary ought to limit the use of vaccine cards to their intended purpose: to help remind people when their second shot is due.” The more that vaccination card pictures are posted online, the easier it will be for scammers to replicate them, the BBB warned.
There aren’t currently any known vaccine-related scams in the U.S., although Britain has already seen scammers trying to sell fake vaccination cards on TikTok and eBay. (TikTok has removed these videos, and told The Sun that they breached the app’s guidelines.) “It’s only a matter of time before similar cons come to the United States and Canada,” the BBB added.
We’ve gotten so used to doom-scrolling that it’s a nice change of pace to see so many people celebrate the vaccination process, whether that means our Instagram feeds are full of frontline workers joyfully receiving their shots, or we’re reading heartwarming tweets about older people getting vaccinated. Now that nearly 35,300,000 Americans are vaccinated, it finally feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — but you can just as easily update your followers with a quick selfie or a photo of your vaccine sticker, and stay safe from both COVID and online scammers.