De Blasio sees some positives with ‘Vaccine Passport’ plan to help NYC reopen

Mayor Bill de Blasio on March 12, 2021.
Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed tepid support for the concept of “vaccine passports” on Thursday, saying he thought they could be a useful tool in the city’s reopening. 

“I see the passport approach as another tool, I think it’s one of many tools,” the mayor said. “I think particularly for some private sector settings it could be a really valuable tool.” 

The relatively new concept of a vaccine passport would allow vaccinated individuals to attend large events by either showing a digital certificate or scannable document. Health officials said the city was focusing its efforts on vaccinating as many New Yorkers as possible for now, and the concept of a passport would not be considered until vaccines were widespread. 

“I don’t think we should be requiring that people show proof of vaccination until vaccines are widely available to everybody,” said Dr. Jay Varma, a City Hall public health advisor. “We need to get to a point where vaccines are widely abundant, available, and people have all been reached and given the information they need to make an informed decision.”

White House officials have said they will not require a national vaccine passport system, and will leave it up to local municipalities and the private sector to use them if they see fit. 

New York State has already developed a vaccine passport software dubbed the “Excelsior Pass” and sporting arenas such as Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center have allowed guests who can prove they are vaccinated to attend games without providing proof of a negative test.

The concept of vaccine passports has become controversial among some conservatives, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has pledged to ban businesses in his state from using any vaccine passport system.

De Blasio stressed that the city’s main focus right now is getting shots into arms, which as of Thursday, they have administered 4,134,399 doses. 

“I think government has a role to play in setting it up and making it work, but I wouldn’t make it more than it is,” he said. “I think the most important thing is to get people vaccinated.