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Membership should have its privileges: Hurray for the ‘Vax Pass’

The pandemic is far from over. People who have gotten vaccinated should be welcomed to enjoy the perks of a Chicago summer with fewer restrictions.

A vaccination card could be your ticket to summer events in Chicago under the ‘Vax Pass’ idea now floating around City Hall.
A vaccination card could be your ticket to summer events in Chicago under the ‘Vax Pass’ idea now floating around City Hall.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Remember that old American Express slogan?

“Membership has its privileges.”

We find ourselves thinking along those lines as cities consider creating COVID-19 vaccine passes. The notion got a big boost Wednesday when Chicago officials announced plans for a series of musical events that will be restricted to people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We will never mandate that Chicagoans get a vaccine, but this is a creative way to incentivize people to step up and get it, especially younger people,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said, talking about the city’s Protect Chicago Music Series this summer. “If we’re to get out of this pandemic, we need people to get vaccinated.”

Exactly. Right now, just 32.5% of Chicagoans are fully vaccinated. Providing an incentive for more people to get their shot is a big reason we favor the city’s proposed “Vax Pass,” which would restrict attendance at some crowded public events to people who are vaccinated.

People who have done the right thing for themselves and others have earned certain privileges — like being able to enjoy the perks of a Chicago summer with fewer restrictions.

Sure, we understand the practical limits on vax passes, and we’ve heard the grumblings about invasive government. Counterfeit vaccination cards could become a thing, and some people, for medical reasons, just can’t get the vaccine. Accommodations will have to be made.

We’re also not making a case here for a national vaccine passport system, such as the one the European Union has proposed to facilitate travel between EU countries. The Biden administration has already dismissed that idea, as has Gov. J.B. Pritzker for Illinois.

But on a limited basis here in Chicago, the argument in favor of some type of vaccine pass that restricts access to certain crowded events and large venues is simple and strong: To promote and safeguard public health.

The pandemic is far from over. New vaccinations rates have plummeted across Illinois. The nation as a whole is nowhere close to herd immunity and, the way things are going, may never get there. The big problem, experts warn, is that too many of us still refuse to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 spreads fastest at big, crowded events. A lot of hard-earned progress against the virus can be reversed in no time. So, with that in mind, city officials are only acting responsibly by taking smart steps to limit exposure to the virus as the city aims to fully reopen by July 4.

If that means only people who have gotten their shot are welcomed to some big show in a park this summer, so be it.

Membership has its privileges.

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