How to Show Proof of Vaccination in New York City

Screenshots from NYC COVID Safe

Apple Store

Key Takeaways

  • You can show your paper COVID-19 vaccination card or use the official apps to enter indoor venues like restaurants, bars, and movie theaters in New York City.
  • The New York State Excelsior Pass only works for those who have been vaccinated in the state. Out-of-state visitors will have to opt for the city's NYC COVID Safe app.
  • For international visitors, all WHO-authorized vaccines are acceptable, according to the NYC mayor's press office.

People in New York City will have to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor establishments like restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and performance venues starting August 16. Enforcement will begin a month later on September 13. 

New York City residents can carry their paper vaccination card or use one of the two mobile apps: the state’s Excelsior Pass or the city’s NYC COVID Safe. Visitors can also show a physical copy of their vaccination record or enter their information into the NYC COVID Safe app.

Here's how you can use the apps and their potential drawbacks.

Should You Use Excelsior Pass or NYC COVID Safe?

To avoid losing your physical vaccination card, you can opt for either Excelsior Pass or NYC COVID Safe to prove your vaccination status digitally.

If you were vaccinated in New York State, Excelsior can verify your vaccination record by checking your name, date of birth, and ZIP code. It will also ask you questions about when and where you got the vaccine as well as what type of vaccine you received. For security purpose, most venues will ask to see the code on your app along with your photo ID.

You're not required to scan your card for the app to register your information so don't worry if you left your vaccination card at home.

But Excelsior can be glitchy and may not recognize your vaccination record if there is a typo in the system. You may then use the NYC COVID Safe app, which simply stores a photo of your vaccination card without verification. 

For out-of-state visitors, you will have to use NYC COVID Safe instead of Excelsior Pass. 

Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, tells Verywell via email that all vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) are acceptable for international travelers visiting New York City. The WHO has so far authorized Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Serum Institute of India vaccines for emergency use.

How Secure Are These ‘Vaccine Passport’ Apps? 

Critics have raised concerns about privacy and data security with “vaccine passport” apps. Huge Ma, a New Yorker who created the vaccine finder TurboVax, uploaded a photo of a cat to the NYC COVID Safe app and received a green check mark. Others have also bypassed the system with a Mickey Mouse portrait and a restaurant menu

“The app holds the information and does not verify against a database, for both international or domestic visitors,” Feyer writes.

The COVID Safe app works like a convenient photo storage of your vaccination card rather than a verification system. However, it may be easy to fabricate records with a fake vaccination card. City officials are still figuring out how business venues can authenticate international vaccination cards.

Unlike NYC COVID Safe, Excelsior checks against the state database.

Excelsior’s developer IBM says it uses blockchain technology to store and protect medical data without much further explanation. The official privacy policy for the Excelsior program simply states that the app does not use location tracking and cannot “identify any specific user that has downloaded or deleted the app.”

If you’re worried about leaving digital traces of your personal information, you can always show your paper vaccination card as proof. 

Can You Use Other Apps?

If you're an iOS user, you can scan your vaccination card with the built-in Note app. Find the app on your home screen, press down the app icon and hold for two seconds until a menu pops up. Choose "Scan Document" and it will turn your phone's camera into a digital scanner. You can then save the image in your note as a PDF.

Keep in mind that your note might be synchronized to your other Apple devices and there is still a risk of your data being exposed or hacked. It may also be up to the individual establishment to decide whether a scanned copy is acceptable.

iPhone Scan Document (Vaccination Card)
Scan your COVID-19 vaccination card with the Note app on iOS device.

Daphne Lee / Verywell Health

Apps like Clear have gained traction among U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors who wish to go through airport security quickly. But New York City officials have yet to specify whether private apps are acceptable once the mandate takes effect. 

Will You Have to Show Proof of Vaccination in Other Cities?

Equinox will adopt the vaccine mandate for its gyms and SoulCycle locations in New York, but the company plans to expand this policy to all of its other locations.

Some bars and restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles have started to require customers who want to dine or drink indoor to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours.

Companies like The Washington Post, Disney, Walmart have also announced vaccine mandates for both new hires and employees returning to work.

What This Means For You

You will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor venues and restaurants and movie theaters in New York City. You can either show your paper vaccination card, or use one of the two official apps: Excelsior and NYC COVID Safe.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccines.

By Daphne Lee
Daphne K. Lee is a news editor at Verywell Health. She previously managed news for The News Lens.