Chicago vaccine passport considered to open concerts, sporting events this summer

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Thursday, April 29, 2021
Chicago eyes electronic vaccine pass to open up concerts, sporting events
Chicago is eyeing an electronic COVID "vax pass" similar to the one in New York to allow concerts, music venues and sporting events to reopen this summer.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is a Chicago initiative to offer an electronic COVID vaccine passport, akin to what's rolling out in New York State, that would allow stadiums, concert venues and other businesses reopen to fully-vaccinated people.

The blockchain certified proof of vaccination is acceptable to many people who typically are concerned with government overreach.

"Vaccinate mandates like the vax pass can be consistent with civil liberties, values and principles when there's a grave threat to public health," said Colleen Connell, executive director of ACLU Illinois.

The city plans to incentivize young people, especially, to get vaccinated and earn other benefits like haircuts and pedicures for doing so. Cook County is working with PromoShare, a company that enables event producers, sports teams and venues to tap their fans as influencers, to encourage vaccine take up, but a vax pass would be a step up.

"If they need a vax pass to go to a music festival to see their favorite band or their favorite artist, I think they're going to run to get the vaccine," said Ernesto Pedroza of PromoShare.

The system would rely on blockchain technology, the decentralized distributed leger behind Bitcoin.

"It is a way of verifying vaccination and a way of verifying that information and sharing it among key stakeholders, and being able to have that information be secure, transparent, and verifiable, it is much better than a piece of paper," said Lamont Black, finance professor at DePaul University.

Fake vaccination certificates can be found for sale on the internet.

"This would be a way that is verified by a hospital, by the regulators," Black explained. "Then when you're checked going into a sports event or something else, everyone knows that information is true, and it is secure on the blockchain."

For now, concerns revolve around equity. Many said there would need be an analog or paper alternative for people who do not have access to a smartphone.

The city's final plan has yet to be unveiled, but other promoters that ABC7 spoke to were reluctant to endorse a vax pass, specifically. Both the White Sox and the Cubs said they'd wait for more details, and will have nothing to do with a future vax pass until Major League Baseball gives them some guidance.