Since the dawn of time (about five or six months ago), people all over the world (Twitter users in The United States) has asked a very important question: why does the COVID-19 vaccine card not fit in a wallet?
The card is too large for a standard wallet card slot, and as Amanda Mull pointed out in Atlantic Ocean, still small enough that it would be easy to lose. It’s like an inverted gold lid: just wrong. A handful of people wondered to Mull in August that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might not have thought so much about the size of the cards.
But it turns out they were at least think on the size of the card according to e-mails obtained through a request for freedom of information law and sent to The edge by a reader.
E-mail correspondence within the CDC shows that the Agency was working on a vaccination card in early August 2020, months before the first COVID-19 vaccines would be approved for use. On August 6, an employee sent an email with a draft vaccination card attached. “Remember that the card must be small enough to fit in a wallet,” the employee wrote in an email. “Most cards I see are about 4” x 3.5 “and are usually folded.”
It is important to note here that things in the wallet are much smaller than 4 “x 3.5”. Wallet-sized photos are 2.5 x 3.5 inches and standard credit cards are 2.125 x 3.37 inches.
But the most important bit of info comes at the end of the sentence: “usually folded.” If the cards were 4 inches wide and 3.5 inches high, it would be 2 inches wide and 3.5 inches high by folding them in the middle. It’s pretty close to the size of a standard credit card.
And that was not even the final dimensions of the cards. The following Saturday, Operation Warp Speed, which was in charge of developing the vaccine, asked the CDC to send the vaccine card at the end of the day on Monday. The CDC team went into overdrive to complete the design before the deadline, and the same employee sent a print-ready version Tuesday morning. In this email, the dimensions of the card were set to 4.25 inches by 3.5 inches.
Ok, time for more math. Fold to medium-sized cards would set the card at 2,125 inches by 3.5 inches, about the same size as a credit card. Excellent! Perfect size to meet the goal of fitting into a wallet. Everything ready, well underway.
But unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending. Although the CDC designed the card to have that size, it is not the size the cards ended up being. My vaccine card measures 4 x 3 inches – too big to fit in a wallet. There is nothing on the map to suggest folding it. And besides folding it in half, it sets at 2 inches by 3 inches (so much math today). It’s smaller than a credit card and just small enough that it would slip into a card slot and be hard to dig out.
What happened between those emails that promised a card that would fit in wallets and the vaccination campaign that gave all cards that did not easily fit into wallets? This is where things get murky, and it’s a mystery I still have not solved. The CDC did not respond to a request for comment. Maybe someone just clicked the wrong button on a printer at some point. But perhaps there is a lesson here: The road to hell is paved with good intentions – and furiously shaped cardboard.