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Going somewhere that requires proof of vaccination? Here’s what you should know

A security guard checks a person's vaccination card before allowing entry into a bar.
Permanent Records Roadhouse in Cypress Park is one of several bars requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The white card you received when you got your COVID-19 vaccine — the one that may or may not fit in your wallet — will soon be as essential as a ticket or an ID for entry to L.A.-area bars and other venues.

Los Angeles County announced Wednesday that vaccination will be required to enter indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges. The county order will also require patrons and employees to have at least one vaccine dose by Oct. 7 and full vaccination by Nov. 4.

This is already the practice for some business owners, such as Conservatory in West Hollywood, one of the first restaurants in L.A. County to ask for proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of visiting. Several L.A. theaters and orchestras announced that audience members will need to be fully vaccinated to attend concerts this October. But until now, these efforts were up to individual businesses and institutions.

L.A. County’s mandate comes nearly a month after the county Board of Supervisors directed the Department of Public Health to explore and report on options for a mandate in certain indoor spaces.

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The Los Angeles City Council voted last month to have its attorney draft a vaccine mandate ordinance that requires at least one dose to enter indoor spaces such as restaurants, bars, gyms, spas, concert venues, movie theaters, sporting events (including stadiums) and retail establishments. The draft will need to undergo legal and procedural hurdles before it can be enacted.

As the deadlines approach, it doesn’t hurt to have your vaccination record with you.

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Types of vaccination records

To start, don’t call the vaccine card a vaccine passport. It’s a medical record, so treat it as such by keeping it somewhere safe and where you can access it when needed.

You can choose to have your vaccine record in your wallet, bag or backpack in the event proof of vaccination is requested. If you want to keep the original record at home or want to replace a missing record, you can request a digital copy. (Don’t laminate your card. Laminating will prevent it from being updated — in the event you get a booster shot.)

There are three types of official vaccination records.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination record card (white paper card). You received this card when you got your vaccine.
  • California Department of Public Health COVID-19 vaccination digital record. Everyone who is vaccinated in California can request this digital record. It takes less than a minute to complete the request and your record is sent by email or text. You can take a screenshot of the record, print it or save it to Google Play if you have Android version 5 or above. An Apple Wallet version is not yet available. Along with the digital record, you’ll receive a QR code that makes your digital COVID vaccination record readable by a QR scanner.
  • California Immunization Registry (CAIR), a statewide immunization system for California residents, is another way to obtain a digital or physical copy of your record. You can obtain a copy of the vaccination record by asking your doctor for a copy from CAIR or request a copy directly by completing an “authorization to release form” and uploading a scan or photo of a current official photo ID.

Lose it? Laminate it? Post it on Instagram? Some dos and don’ts for your vaccination card, the most exciting piece of paper you’ll get this year.

How to show proof of vaccination

When you visit a restaurant or business that is requesting proof of vaccination, you have several options when presenting your medical record.

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You can have your white vaccine card at the ready or a photo of the card saved to your cellphone. A screenshot of the California Public Health digital record or CAIR record on your phone is also accepted.

Some establishments are also asking for a valid ID to verify the vaccine record.

Vaccine records can be saved to your mobile wallet through Healthvana.
Healthvana provides L.A. County residents with the option to download a digital copy of your vaccine card to your Apple Wallet or Google Play.
(Healthvana Inc. )

Ramin Bastani, chief executive of Healthvana, Inc., partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in December of 2020 to provide another digital option for obtaining your vaccination record.

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If you received at least one dose of the vaccine in L.A. County, you’ll get an email and a text message from Healthvana with a secure link. Clicking on the link will prompt you to enter your first and last name and your date of birth to confirm your identity. After being verified, you’ll have access to your digital vaccine record and have the option to download it to a digital wallet (Apple or Google).

In 2015, Healthvana delivered tens of millions of HIV test results to patients throughout the United States electronically. Bastani said in the same way it helped people access HIV test results via their phone or computer, it’s helping with the accessibility of vaccination records.

“What we’ve been for as a company broadly is to enable and empower people with their own health information at their fingertips,” he said.

Vaccination requirements? Some L.A. restaurants and bars already have them

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What to expect

Peter Alexander, owner of Akbar in Silver Lake, said the goal of the bar had always been to create a “safe and sheltering home base for creative, inclusive, east-of-West Hollywood LGBTQI+ types, their friends and families.”

To stay in line with his mission, Alexander and his co-owner, Scott Craig, made the decision to implement a proof-of-vaccination policy on July 21.

“With breakthrough infections rising, we were concerned for the safety of our staff and patrons,” he said. “After all we’d been through to just survive, we’re not going to risk our health to serve you a cocktail.”

Akbar and Idle Hour in North Hollywood both require proof of full vaccination and do so by accepting a photo of the vaccination card, the physical card or a digital version on a cellphone with a matching valid ID. They treat checking the validity of the vaccine card as they would a California driver’s license to sell a customer alcohol.

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Idle Hour will also accept a negative COVID test result that was taken within 72 hours of visiting.

Both acknowledge that the process isn’t foolproof, but said it’s the best they can do to provide a safe and comfortable space for all.

Dimitri Komarov, owner of Idle Hour, said his staff was happy about the new policy — he established it in early August — and a majority of his customers were supportive too.

At the start of the new policy implementation, however, Idle Hour was met with objection in person and online. Komarov said anti-vaccine protesters rallied outside his bar and called his staff Nazis. Idle Hour’s Yelp page was temporarily disabled after a slew of negative and one-star reviews about the new vaccine policy.

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But, Komarov said, the mission of his establishment is to create a community space for people to enjoy a drink, a meal and each other; having the vaccine policy allowed for that.

“We figured that by creating this kind of policy, it would help those people that are scared to venture out feel safer,” Komarov said.

Alexander, from Akbar, said the policy is now normal for his customers. He’s gotten feedback that customers feel safer going to the bar knowing there’s someone at the door asking for proof of vaccination.

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