NEW YORK (CNN) — Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and receiving a vaccination card has become a rite of passage for many Americans who have endured the pandemic for the last year.
Securing a vaccination card, however, doesn't necessarily mean your COVID-19 vaccine status is in your medical records.
Many got the vaccines at drive-in events, sports stadiums and other mass vaccination locations in their communities. If you are among the countless people who didn't get the doses at a primary care doctor's office, there may not be any record of the vaccination on file with your doctor.
You need to preserve those vaccine records just as you would any other important medical information, doctors say. After taking the vaccine, here is what to do to get your vaccination added to your official medical record.
Give a copy to your primary care doctor
It's really that simple. Email, mail or fax your vaccination card to your doctor's office. The administrators will add your COVID-19 vaccine to your medical record. Or bring your vaccination card into the office at your next appointment, so office staff can scan a copy into the system.
If you change providers in the future, your medical record will be forwarded to your new provider, which will include your record of taking the vaccine.
For people who got the vaccine but do not have a primary care doctor, it's time to schedule an appointment with one, said Dr. Sirisha Mohan, clinical assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
If you have an adverse reaction to a vaccine, your doctor will know the details of which vaccine you took and when, Mohan said. "That's even more reason to make sure that you have a doctor you can reach out to so you can stay in close communication," she added.
Check with your pharmacy
In recent months, many pharmacies have been offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In many cases, a pharmacy automatically will forward your vaccination records to your primary care office — but you shouldn't assume it will.
Call the pharmacy to see if a staff member already forwarded proof of your immunization, and request someone do so if this step hasn't been taken yet.
Contact your state's immunization information systems office
Every U.S. state has an immunization information systems office that keeps track of a population's vaccine records. It's up to the participating providers, like primary care offices, to submit their patients' records, Mohan said.
"As we're learning, there's always a need to understand and get as much information about how our populations are doing," she said.
It's also beneficial to have your vaccine records inputted into the state registry because it combines multiple immunization sources into one record, which can be provided as an official record to schools and day cares, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more information, please contact your state's immunization information systems office.
Reach out to Veterans Affairs
If you're a veteran, you can upload a copy of your vaccination card in a message to your U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care team using this portal. You may also call, email or fax a copy to your care team.
It's important to submit your vaccine record to the VA because it will help the team keep track of who is protected against COVID-19 as well as determine how and when they will expand in-person care services, according to a statement from the VA.
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