How to Show Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination In NYC and Beyond

With New York City rolling out new protocols, it remains to be seen if — and when — other U.S. cities will follow suit.

Proof of Vaccination
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Big changes are coming to New York City this month as the fight against COVID-19 continues. This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that workers and patrons will soon have to show proof of at least one dose of vaccination in order to engage in indoor activities, such as dining, fitness centers, or entertainment. The program, which has been dubbed the "Key to NYC Pass," will go into effect Monday, August 16, for a short transition period before full enforcement begins Monday, September 13.

"If you want to participate in our society fully, you've got to get vaccinated," said de Blasio on Tuesday at a press conference, according to The New York Times. "It's time."

De Blasio's announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide, with the highly contagious Delta variant accounting for 83 percent of infections in the U.S. (at the time of publication), according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are slightly less effective against this new variant, they're still hugely helpful in reducing the severity of COVID-19; research shows the two mRNA vaccines were 93 percent effective against the Alpha variant and, by comparison, are 88 percent effective against symptomatic cases of the Delta variant. Despite the vaccines' demonstrated efficacy, as of Thursday, only 49.9 percent of the total U.S. population has been vaccinated, while 58.2 percent has received at least one dose. (BTW, here's what you need to know about possible breakthrough infections.)

It remains to be seen if other major U.S. cities will follow a program similar to New York — Allison Arwady, M.D., Chicago's public health commissioner, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that city officials "will be watching" to see how it plays out — but it seems that a COVID-19 vaccination card is going to increasingly become a prized possession.

That said, however, you may not feel comfortable carrying around your paper CDC vaccine card — after all, it's not exactly indestructible. Don't stress, as there are other ways to prove that you've been vaccinated against COVID-19.

So, what is proof of vaccination and how does it work? Here's what you need to know.

What's Going on with Proof of Vaccination?

Proof of vaccination is becoming a trend across the country in addition to New York City. Travelers who want to visit Hawaii, for example, can skip the state's 15-day quarantine period if they can show proof of vaccination.

On the West Coast in San Francisco, hundreds of bars have banded together to require that people either show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entering an indoor venue. "We started noticing…that over and over and over again, vaccinated employees from different bars in San Francisco were coming down with COVID, and it was happening at an alarming rate," said Ben Bleiman, president of the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, to NPR in July. "Protecting the health of our staff and their families is kind of a sacred bond that we have. We're also talking about, you know, our customers and keeping them safe, of course, and then just our livelihood." Bleiman said that his alliance has seen "overwhelming support" from their customers. "If anything, they've said it actually makes them more likely to come in the bar because they feel safer inside," he added.

The Lollapalooza music festival, which took place in late July at Grant Park in Chicago, required attendees to either show proof that they'd been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before the festival started.

What Does It Mean to Provide Proof of Vaccination?

The idea behind proof of vaccination is simple: You present your COVID-19 vaccination card, whether an actual COVID-19 vaccine card or a digital copy (a photo stored on your smartphone or through an app), that confirms you've been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Where Do You Need to Show Proof of Vaccination?

It depends on the area. As of press time, 20 different states had prohibited proof-of-vaccination requirements, according to Ballotpedia. For example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill in June prohibiting businesses from requesting vaccination information and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis barred vaccine passports in May. Meanwhile, four (California, Hawaii, New York, and Oregon) have created digital vaccination status applications or proof-of-vaccination program, according to Ballotpedia.

Depending on your residence, you may be expected to provide proof of vaccination at bars, restaurants, concert venues, performances, and fitness centers in the future. Before venturing to a designated spot, you may want to look online or call the venue ahead of time to know for sure what you may be expecting to present upon entry.

What About Proof of Vaccination for Travel?

Worth noting: The CDC recommends halting international travel plans until you've been fully vaccinated. Should you be fully vaccinated, however, and are planning to jet overseas, you should still check out the U.S. Department of State's website on current travel advisories. Each country is listed with one of the four travel precaution levels: level one is to exercise normal precautions, level two represents increased caution, while levels three and four suggest travelers either reconsider their plans or not go at all, respectively.

Some countries are requiring proof of vaccination, proof of a negative covid test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter — but they vary from place to place and are changing rapidly, so you should research your destination ahead of time to see if proof of vaccination is required for your travel plans. For example, the U.K. and Canada are requiring U.S. citizens to be fully vaccinated in order to enter, but U.S. travelers can enter Mexico regardless of vaccination status and with no COVID test. The U.S. itself may soon require foreign visitors to to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter, according to Reuters.

How to Show Proof of Vaccination

Unfortunately, there's no one uniform way to do this. However, there are some apps that allow you to upload your vaccination information and provide proof of vaccination without having to tote your CDC vaccination card everywhere.

Some states have also rolled out apps and portals for residents to access important information and store digital versions of their vaccine card. For instance, New York's Excelsior Pass (on the Apple App Store or on Google Play) provides digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results. Louisiana's LA Wallet, a digital driver's license app (on the Apple App Store or Google Play.), can also hold a digital version of vaccination status. In California, the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal provides a QR code and a digital copy of your vaccination record.

Though proof-of-vaccination rules vary by state and venue, there are some nationwide apps allow you to scan your COVID-19 vaccine card and have it handy, including:

  • Airside Digital Identity: A free app available for download on Apple's App Store that provides users with a digital version of their vaccination card.
  • Clear Health Pass: Available for free on iOS and Android devices, the Clear Health Pass also provides COVID-19 vaccine validation. Users can also take part in real-time health surveys to screen for possible symptoms and if they're at risk.
  • CommonPass: Users can download CommonPass for free, whether on the Apple App Store or Google Play, before documenting their COVID-19 status for both country or state entry requirements.
  • VaxYes: A free application accessible through that issues digital vaccine certificates with four levels of verification. All users begin at Level 1, which is essentially a digital version of your COVID-19 vaccination card. Level 4, for example, verifies your status with state immunization records. VaxYes stores your personal information in a secure HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) complaint platform.

You can also take a photo of your COVID-19 vaccine card and store it on your phone. For iPhone users, you can store a photo of your card securely by hitting the "share" button while looking at the photo of the card in question (FYI, it's the icon on the bottom left corner of the pic). Next, you can tap "hide," which will conceal the picture in a hidden album. Just in case someone decides to scroll through your photos, they won't be able to find your COVID-19 vaccination card. But should you need easy access, no sweat. Just tap "albums," and then scroll to the section marked "utilities." Then, you'll be able to click the "hidden" category and voila, the image will appear.

With Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy users, you can create a "Locked Folder" to safely store a shot of your COVID-19 vaccination card.

Your safest bet is to figure out in advance the requirements of the place you want to go and take it from there. Proof of vaccination is still pretty new, and many places are still figuring out how it should work.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.

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