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Some summer fun limited to COVID-19 ‘Vax Pass’ holders? ‘Vaccination is going to be your ticket.’

“As we build vaccine confidence and convenience, we’re interested in thinking about ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Crowds gather at Lollapalooza in August 2019. A city “Vax Pass” program could be in place for select concerts this summer, officials said.
Crowds gather at Lollapalooza in August 2019. A city “Vax Pass” program could be in place for select concerts this summer, officials said.
Sun-Times file

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday said the city will launch a COVID-19 vaccination passport program next month for admission to select concerts geared toward young people, in another effort to “incentivize” residents to get their shots.

For now, the city is working with club organizers on setting up shows and other events with “a youth flavor,” Arwady said, but the “Vax Pass” concept could end up applying to other venues, too.

“As we build vaccine confidence and convenience, we’re interested in thinking about ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine,” Arwady said. “I would hope that for most people their main incentive is to be able to stay healthy, keep their families healthy, keep their communities healthy — but we also know, younger people in particular may be excited about the idea of getting into events, for example, that might be limited to people who are vaccinated.”

Arwady stressed, “We are never going to require vaccination for all Chicago residents. That will never be a requirement, but I think increasingly, where people are wanting to do things and lower their risk, vaccination is going to be your ticket to doing some of that.”

As the city’s coronavirus metrics improve, Arwady stopped short of saying large summer events such as Lollapalooza are officially back on, or whether the “Vax Pass” would be required for such gatherings — but she said “we’re really planning in very big ways for what this is going to look like past COVID.

“We all want to put this behind us, and getting people vaccinated is the way to do this,” Arwady said, adding that more details would be released in the weeks ahead.

The iconic lion statues wear face masks outside the The Art Institute of Chicago last May, one day ahead of a statewide mandate requiring masks in public places.
The iconic lion statues wear face masks outside the The Art Institute of Chicago last May, one day ahead of a statewide mandate requiring masks in public places.
Brian Rich/Archivo Sun-Times file

Before that, the city will relax masking guidelines as advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allowing for fully vaccinated residents to go outside without face coverings unless they’re in large crowds with lots of unvaccinated strangers.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said the statewide mask mandate that has been in place for nearly a year will be updated accordingly, too.

“So for people who are fully vaccinated — two weeks post a second dose — you no longer need to wear a mask outside unless you’re in crowded settings, which is what the CDC recommended,” Arwady said. “This is just highlighting again that getting vaccinated is the best thing that you can do to lower your risk.”