NYC's proof of vaccination rule fuels new talks about vaccine 'passports'

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was the center of a major City Hall announcement yesterday, August 3, during which time he discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccination effort, and a big change in how the city will handle unvaccinated individuals going forward. The announcement has renewed talks about vaccine 'passports' and the role they may play in recovery going forward.

New York City will require proof of vaccinations for residents and visitors if they want to participate in a variety of indoor activities, including dining in restaurants and going to concerts. The city is emphasizing its widespread vaccination availability, including the option to get vaccinated in your home.

The city is likewise requiring kids ages 12 and older to get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by August 9 so that they'll be fully vaccinated by the time the next school season starts. As of today, August 4, around 5 million people in the meta-city have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

New York City is the first major city in the United States to require proof of vaccination for participating in select indoor activities, a move that many have praised and others have criticized. The idea of a 'vaccine passport,' which is essentially a new term for the very common immunization record, has become heavily politicized.

According to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, this new program will be called the "Key to NYC Pass," and it'll kick off with a transition period in the middle of this month, easing people into the full enforcement that'll kick off in mid-September. De Blasio stressed that while vaccinated individuals will get to enjoy everything NYC has to offer, the "unvaccinated, unfortunately, [...] will not be able to participate in many things."

The proof of having received at least one vaccine dose will become mandatory starting September 13. Those who get vaccinated will receive a card with their name and the vaccination details, including the date and which vaccine they received. New York City residents have a more convenient option launched earlier this year called the Excelsior Pass, which is a digital way to store your proof of vaccination.

The Excelsior Pass can be printed for those who don't have a smartphone or would rather not store the info on their device; others can download the Wallet App to store and access the pass on their phone whenever needed. As expected, the digital pass proved controversial when it was announced this spring, raising concerns about digital security and medical privacy from some and dramatic conspiracy theory claims from others.

Regardless, the Delta variant has proven particularly concerning and is spreading rapidly through the US, driving breakthrough infections in some vaccinated individuals and fueling hospitalizations among those who remain unvaccinated. NYC anticipated a similar backlash with its proof-of-vaccination requirement, but is proceeding with it regardless.

Many companies are moving ahead with their own vaccination mandates, including major tech companies, requiring employees to be vaccinated before they'll be allowed to return to the office. Public health officials stress that vaccination is the only way forward to bring the pandemic to an end, but scientists are up against misinformation, disinformation, and even nonsense conspiracy theories that have made many reluctant or afraid to get the shot.