'Vaccine Passports' Are a Thing at California Parks Now

April 21, 2021, 1:03 PM · It looks like "vaccine passports" are now a thing at California's theme parks - at least for out-of-state visitors.

A new notice published on the state of California's Blueprint for a Safer Economy industry reopening rules says that, "fully vaccinated persons from out of state may visit or attend activities or events that are restricted to in-state visitors." California has been restricting theme park attendance to state residents ever since allowing the industry to reopen within the state on April 1. This new guidance would allow out-of-state visitors to enter California's theme parks, too - provided they can show proof of vaccination.

That proof of vaccination is what people are talking about with so-called "vaccine passports." In the United States, people are getting white index cards from the CDC when they get their shots. But having your full dosage noted (two shots for Pfizer and Moderna or one for J&J) is not enough to show full vaccination under California rules. Your last dosage must have been at least two weeks ago for you to be considered fully vaccinated, as the vaccine takes time to take maximum effect.

So far, SeaWorld San Diego appears to be the first California theme park to update its published rules to allow for out-of-state visitors. Initial announcements on SeaWorld's website and social media had also provided an option for non-vaccinated out-of-state visitors to provide a negative Covid test to be admitted to the park, but SeaWorld has now removed that option, as it did not appear to be permitted by the state.

Capacity remains limited at 25 percent in the state theme parks, including SeaWorld, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. That means rides are operating at reduced capacity, too - not just that parks are limited in the number of people they can let through the gate. So attraction wait times so far have not been much off from what would have been typical wait times before the pandemic. But the state's two most popular theme parks - Disneyland and Disney California Adventure - have yet to reopen, with their return slated for April 30, next week.

California residents do not need to show proof of vaccination to order to visit a theme park. The requirement is just for out-of-state visitors. People who live outside of California and come to visit the state are supposed to get tested for Covid and quarantine upon entry if they have not been vaccinated.

While California is embracing proof of vaccination, the nation's other theme park capital - Florida - has been explicitly rejecting them, with Florida's governor issuing an executive order banning businesses in the state from requiring proof of vaccination and the state legislature now moving to make that order into law.

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Replies (26)

April 21, 2021 at 8:48 PM

This is great!!! This will definitely help the SoCal parks because locals could only go much before the parks become dead with no guest.

April 21, 2021 at 1:34 PM

I'm definitely not a fan of this. First, vaccine cards are easily forged, and the FBI has already thwarted numerous counterfeit rings selling falsified vaccination cards. Giving advantages to someone simply because they can produce a white card with their name and other handwritten information on it will just further encourage forgers and consumers of counterfeit cards.

Second, the whole purpose behind California's strict lockdowns and rules was to prevent transmission among the state's residents. Being vaccinated does not mean you cannot continue to carry and transmit the virus. Requiring proof of vaccination to grant access to a theme park does nothing to decrease transmission rates within California, and provides no assurance that out-of-state visitors will be any less likely to bring the virus and its variants into California from outside the state.

April 21, 2021 at 1:56 PM

I agree that we need a more secure and accurate way to show proof of vaccination. But to do that, we likely would need a national health service... not that I would be opposed to that, but that's a topic for another site.

But the rationale of keeping out-of-state visitors out of the parks was to reduce the incentive to visit for non-Californians who might carry Covid with them into the state. California's Covid rate is one of the lower, if not the lowest, in the country right now. Keeping interstate travel minimal right now can help California keep its infection rate low while people are getting vaccinated, potentially getting us to the effective end of Covid in the state.

Yet there's pretty much no risk in allowing fully vaccinated people into the state, so that's the rationale behind the switch in policy. I've agreed with Russell in another thread that I think it's ridiculous for California to be advertising itself as a tourist destination to non-Californians right now, because of the risk of infected persons traveling here, especially ones that might fake proof of vaccination to buy theme park tickets.

I am okay with the concept of proof of vaccination for allowing previously restricted travel, but I also agree that we need to start thinking about much better solutions for supporting that than paper index cards.

April 21, 2021 at 2:13 PM

How will this work for younger children, who are unable to get vaccinated yet?

April 21, 2021 at 2:33 PM

If vaccine passports were too be a thing, we would have needed a hard too counterfeit standard BEFORE we give people vaccines. Now that many people have already received easy to fake cards with their vaccines, it is too late.

April 21, 2021 at 3:16 PM

My understanding has been that the residency restrictions on theme parks were always intended to be tied to the travel advisory. Now that it has been modified to allow fully vaccinated individuals to visit California without quarantine, I feel a change like this is the right move in the short term. If someone is allowed to visit the state without restrictions, their activities within the state should not be restricted, especially when higher risk activities are open to them.

However, I do not support the usage of "vaccine passports" if not tied to travel restrictions and feel this requirement must go away if California begins permitting unrestricted travel in June. Beyond the low security of using printed cards, there are also the questionable ethics about mandating the usage of an experimental drug (emergency use authorization is not the same as approved) in order to access everyday activities. The only exception may be for activities that are known to be superspreader events through hard data, such as indoor mass gatherings. Otherwise, I'm 100% against any sort of "vaccine passport" for domestic activities until we've got a surplus of approved vaccines.

April 21, 2021 at 4:43 PM

People in my organization make multiple business trips to California every year, and I'm pretty sure from talking to them that at least a third of them are strongly opposed to getting the vaccine. (For the record, I disagree with them and I'm getting my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine this weekend.) They're eating in the same restaurants and staying at the same hotels as tourists, so how is a vaccine passport going to be applied in their situation? Can Jacobson v. Massachusetts be applied in a situation where the vaccines are still under emergency authorization use?

April 21, 2021 at 5:53 PM

When I got my second shot and my vaccine card was updated, the person who injected me told me to be sure to hang onto the card because "it could be your key to travel." I live in Nevada, 15 miles from CA, closer to southern California than northern Californians, so I would like to be able to use proof of vaccination to be able to visit.

But I definitely get the points above about the ease of counterfeiting these cards. Perhaps the CDC can mail vaccination ID cards or something to those who have received both doses -- after all, I had to put my name and address on the consent forms for both doses, and show ID before receiving those doses, so the CDC does have the information and the verification that it's really me.

And Tim, brace yourself for dose two. The side effects were more varied for me (I also got Pfizer) and hit me harder and faster than the side effects for dose one, but on the plus side, they went away more quickly as my immune system had already had one practice run at fighting it off (there is NO virus in the vaccine, but it DOES replicate how the virus attacks your system so your body learns how to fight off such an attack). Still TOTALLY worth being vaccinated. Four days of side effects the first time and two days of worse side effects the second time sure beats actually catching the virus.

April 21, 2021 at 6:01 PM

Recent polling has shown that the majority of Americans oppose a "vaccine passport." But when it's called "vaccine verification," the majority support it.

From CNBC:
Stop saying Covid vaccine passport and learn from messaging missteps of the past

April 21, 2021 at 6:21 PM

I live in Georgia, got my vaccinations at the county health department. I did NOT get the vaccination card the CDC included in the package. Instead I was given a sheet of paper (8.5 by 11 inches), one fir each visit. I see trouble in my future trying to prove I’m vaccinated :(

April 21, 2021 at 7:40 PM

I got off easy the first time, Kenny, with only a sore shoulder for a few days, but just about everybody I talk to says that they got off fairly lightly with one of the doses but the other dose put them in bed for a couple of days. My bad reaction to the vaccine is due this weekend.

April 21, 2021 at 8:45 PM

@Beacher

Yeah, I’m not buying this BS article. People know what a vaccine passport is, the ones who are opposing it are just anti-vaxers who have never traveled outside the country(Vaccine Passports have been a thing for decades).

For those who are forging their CDC cards: Why? The vaccine is free. I read reports of people paying anywhere from $300 to $1,000 to get a forge. Not only you’re willingly spreading the virus, you wasted a lot of money to lie to the public. It’s ridiculous.

April 21, 2021 at 8:51 PM

@Tim

Yes, brace for the second dose. That one was a real pain: Extremely sore arm and was very tired for 2 and a half days.

April 21, 2021 at 9:52 PM

This "vaccine pasport" issue is bigger than just getting access to countries, states, and public venues. My wife and I have had to ban family members from our house during the pandemic because of their refusal to follow recommended COVID-19 protocols, and it looks like the ban will become permanent with their refusal to get vaccinated. This is going to tear families apart.

On a personal level, I have no respect for and want no contact with adults who can receive the vaccine (and I'm not talking about people who can't get the vaccine for health reasons) and either claim that all of this is a hoax or expect to be protected by herd immunity. There are too many anti-vaccine cowards out there for herd immunity to happen and with the ever increasing risk of even more lethal variants occurring because of too many readily available hosts, they are putting the rest of society at risk. Thus I would like to see the ramifications of Jacobson v. Massachusetts be put into effect.

April 21, 2021 at 11:53 PM

@Tim Hilman: Sorry to hear issues, know a lot of others torn apart like this over stupidity and thinking "just a flu" or conspiracy theories.

I had my first shot, waiting to get second in first week of May but will stick to things like masks and such afterward. Shame we still have idiots messing things up.

And yeah, bragging about spending a few hundred dollars for a card you can just get for free with a shot is truly dumb.

April 22, 2021 at 5:45 AM

@AgustinMacias No need to spend money on a fake CDC vaccination card. Just google for a blank one, print it, and fill it out. The lot numbers can be anything, no one is going to verify if need to show card. Mine, legit one, is hand written.

April 22, 2021 at 9:40 AM

In the UK every poll on the issue consistently shows a large majority in favour of 'passports' if it allows them to resume some semblance of normal life, for example going into bars or restaurants without social distancing or masks. It's likely to become a thing for large scale events such as stadium shows or sports fixtures and the general feeling here is that so long as it's a time-limited thing, (ie. until this thing is effectively over) then people would rather have to show a 'passport' and know that everyone else in that space was vaccinated than continue with distancing and mask wearing protocols for the foreseeable future.

April 22, 2021 at 10:58 AM

I think a lot of polling on this subject is incredibly biased and inaccurate. Of course if given the choice between continuing lockdowns and limitations on public events and behavior, most people would agree that some type of "vaccine passport" would be acceptable to lift the limitations currently being imposed on society. When given the choice of being locked up in your home or carrying a vaccination card into a mostly open and free public domain, any reasonable person would choose the later given the experience of the past year. However, the consequences of creating "vaccine passports" or using easily forged vaccine cards are rarely addressed in these polls.

In fact, a recent focus group consisting of vaccine-hesitant people remained defiant even in the face of convincing evidence regarding safety, efficacy, and public health (one doctor even appealed to the group by noting that Trump received the vaccine and was responsible for the process and effort to develop them - Project Warp Speed, and even referred to it as the Trump Vaccine). When the moderator reminded participants of the anonymity of the discussion and asked whether attendees would purchase or create fake vaccination cards if they were required to resume "normal" activities or remove mask mandates, the responses were overwhelmingly "yes" even if they were viewed as ethically "wrong". (https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/04/20/vaccine-hesitant-republicans/)

The problem here is that the cat is out of the bag, and despite pleas at the start of the vaccination process to create a more secure, verifiable process to confirm vaccination records, the CDC instead went with "quick and dirty". To go back and re-issue more tamper-proof and secure vaccination cards would be akin to the nearly decade-long Real-ID process that has confounded state and local governments around the country.

The bottom line is that all efforts should be focused on continuing the rate of vaccination around the country and trying to convince hold-outs of the benefits of being vaccinated without ostracizing them from society. While it may take a bit longer to reach "herd immunity", that approach is far better than trying to cobble together a nationwide vaccine passport program that will do nothing but embolden those who are currently hesitant to be vaccinated. Also, as AJ has noted, all of the vaccines currently available are being administered under emergency authorization, which would categorize them as "experimental". While many of us see the benefits of speedily distributing and administering these vaccines, we must respect the opinions of others who are hesitant to allow experimental drugs injected into their bodies, especially if the greater society is essentially forcing these drugs into people's arms in order to appear in public spaces. As much as we want to get back to normal, we must empathize with those that may be hesitant and/or resistant to be vaccinated and we cannot mandate consumption of an experimental medication for any person to lead a public life.

April 23, 2021 at 3:36 AM

Most of this may not be related. With being fully vaccinated, I heard you can...
-Be with your friends (who are fully vaccinated) indoors in private spaces (your house) without masks.
-Be with one unvaccinated household (low risk) indoors in private spaces (your house) without masks.
-Travel domestically or internationally without testing or quarantining (unless the destination has no vaccination excemption)
-Travel domestically or internationally without quarantining after travel (unless your origin where you started, which is the place of your residency requires it even if you've been vaccinated)

Vaccination can also be the key to hanging out with friends in public places providing that they are vaccinated and will adhere to safety guidelines.

Proof of vaccinations will help slow the spread because the effectiveness is 90-95% for the highest efficiency of the vaccines.

April 23, 2021 at 6:54 AM

I’m noticing a pretty harmful circlejerk taking shape here. In my opinion it’s unfair to equate people uneasy about taking a vaccine that hasn’t been officially approved with anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. To be clear, I took it, but especially for people like me who most likely wouldn’t get hit hard at all by the virus, the risk may outweigh the reward. At any rate, people not taking it should not be outcasts of society like some of you think they should

April 23, 2021 at 8:43 AM

What problem does this solve?
WDW & all the parks open outside of CA have proven ability to safely operate BEFORE vaccines were available.
There's no science backing any of the decisions anymore. Open dialog is not even allowed.

April 23, 2021 at 12:02 PM

@TheStormRunner

While not “officially” approved, this vaccine has been effective and there have been many articles for months proving it works(How long? That’s the question but it’s currently working). Those who are still hesitant(That are not in the not approved group like young kids and pregnant) after all the information/research, are nearing the anti-vax area.

Besides it’s like I heard someone say, “If the US government is safely giving it to white people, that means it’s safe.”

April 23, 2021 at 12:28 PM

I disagree AgustinMacias. The FDA still has yet to provide full authorization of any vaccine formulation in the United States, and regardless of the current track record and clinical studies to demonstrate its safety and efficacy, they are still "experimental" drugs. That makes a BIG difference in a court of law if anyone were to have significant side affects directly linked to any of the vaccines, and it also affects those who may have special medical conditions or are taking other medications that may advise against combining with vaccines.

Personally, I do not have an issue with the vaccines and am scheduled for my second Pfizer dose next week. However, we absolutely must respect someone's choice to not inject themselves with an experimental drug and should not impose conditions of vaccination in order to lead a public life. Whether you feel it borders on being "anti-vax" is not the issue - the issue remains that the vaccines are still being administered under emergency authorization. Until vaccines are given full authorization for use under the FDA, no person should be forced, impugned, or otherwise discriminated against for not taking the vaccine.

April 23, 2021 at 4:13 PM

@Russell - I see your point, and it makes sense in a rational society. But the people I have been ranting about also push the idea that this whole COVID-19 thing is a hoax, masks don't work, hydroxycloroquinine sulfate is the cure but the government won't let us have it, there's mind control devices and tracking devices in the vaccine, and that doctors and hospitals are being paid extra money to say that any deaths due to any respiratory illness are all COVID-19-related.

A rational discussion is impossible with them because they discount well-established facts and studies and replace them with conspiracy theory nonsense and wishful superstition. There will never be enough proof to convince these people that the vaccines are safe simply because they write their own narrative. Therefore I think they should start suffering the consequences of their choices. And I view conformity like taxes - you may not like taxes and conformity, but that's the price we all pay to live in a civilized society - nobody should get a free ride.

April 24, 2021 at 4:19 PM

Tim and AgustinMacias: I got my vaccine, so don’t come after me. One thing for AgustinMacias: No need to bring race into this, you’re showing your true colors there. And one thing for both of you, but especially Tim: Hesitancy to take this vaccine for the reasons Russell states should not group someone on with the anti-vax conspiracy nuts. At this point in time, whatever the liberals who want to mandate it think, it is a decision that can be considered justified

April 26, 2021 at 8:34 AM

@Tim - I agree that there are some real bozos out there that peddle in conspiracy theories and bizarre ideals. However, you can't manage or punish people for the way they think, and could never tell the difference between a person that has legitimate medical concerns with taking the vaccines from a person who believes the vaccines are a way for Big Brother to track us in our everyday lives. If you are suggesting that we unequally restrict certain people's freedoms because they come to a decision about taking experimental medication than you are playing right into the conspiracy and Big Brother theories that many of the holdouts believe.

It may take a bit longer to reach herd immunity or to convince the hold outs to protect themselves and their family by taking the vaccine, but we cannot and should not undermine our ideals and morals simply to get to the finish line a month or 2 sooner.

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