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As Chicago requires COVID vaccination proof at more places, here’s what you need to know

Tips to help you store and present your proof of vaccination now that the city has issued a requirement it be presented to get into bars, gyms and other locations.

Festival-goers show proof of COVID-19 vaccination as they pass through a health screening station at the main entrance at Lollapalooza in Grant Park over the summer. Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

The City of Chicago has just announced proof-of-vaccination requirements for restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor public places, but showing proof is nothing new for Chicago music and theater fans, who’ve been flashing their COVID-19 vaccination cards since last summer.

With the citywide announcement, Chicago joins New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin and other major cities in saying: If you want to go out, get vaxxed.

Here’s a quick primer on how, after you get vaccinated (and boosted), you can prove it:

Is there an official government app?

Yes. Illinois is now one of several states using the SMART Health Card, which was developed with technology from Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s a digital version of your COVID vaccination history and is available to anyone who has been vaccinated in Illinois. It creates a QR code that you can print out or store on your phone or computer for whenever you need to present proof of vaccination.

To get the SMART Health Card, go to Vax Verify, the state’s online portal, where you can register and check your vaccination status in I-CARE, the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange. Vax Verify uses Experian, the credit-reporting agency, to verify a person’s identity.

Should I carry my paper card?

Not every place will have a SMART Health Card reader. So you could either carry your paper card, or take a photo of it with your smartphone.

Be sure to also carry proof of identification that has your name and photo, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, passport or school ID card, because the person checking your vaccination card will also need to check your ID.

If you want to keep your cellphone photo of your vaccination card private, here’s how to do that: On an iPhone, go to the “share” button in “Photos” and select “hide. To find it again, tap “albums,” and scroll to “utilities.” You also can hide it in your iPhones Notes app. On Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy phones, you can store the photo in a locked folder.

Are there any other apps?

Private apps include Clear Health Pass, VaxYes, Airside and CommonPass.

But remember, the good ol’ photo on your phone — or the paper card — will work just as well.

Some institutions are creating their own apps. The University of Illinois requires students and staff to upload their vaccination cards to a portal, to be checked against public health records. Once verified, the person can use their phone to gain entry to university buildings.

Is it OK to laminate my vaccination card to protect it?

Don’t do this. When you get a booster shot, it needs to be noted on your card.

If you’re worried about spills ruining your card, you could buy a plastic sleeve for it. And some places giving the shots are also providing sleeves.

What if I lose my card?

Contact your vaccine provider. It will have your record and can issue a new card.

If you were vaccinated in Illinois and have any trouble, contact Illinois’ I-CARE registry. For details, go online to http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/prevention-wellness/immunization/icare

What about getting a replacement from the CDC?

Even though vaccination cards bear the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency doesn’t store individuals’ health data and can’t issue replacement cards.

What about fake cards?

The FBI warns that it’s a crime to falsely use the seal of a federal agency such as the CDC. People have faced criminal charges in Illinois and other states for selling blank vaccine cards or filling them out with false information in order to travel.