Editorial: Boston should follow NYC on vaccine pass

No one wants to return to the dark days of 2020 with restaurants shuttered, classrooms emptied, and hockey rinks and stadiums devoid of fans. But with a dangerous variant of the Covid-19 disease careening through the US and right here in Massachusetts, it’s time to take more urgent steps to protect ourselves, our kids, and the economy.

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Big Apple would phase in a mandate that all people eating, working, and seeking entertainment in indoor spaces prove that they’ve been vaccinated. The so-called “Key to NYC Pass” will launch this month, with enforcement set to kick in by September. Those who haven’t been jabbed at least with their first dose will be denied entry, according to de Blasio, although it’s not yet clear whether those restrictions would apply to children under 12, who are not yet eligible to receive vaccines.

“It’s time for people to see the vaccine as literally necessary for living a good and full and healthy life,” de Blasio said during a Monday press conference. “This is crucial because we know this will encourage a lot more vaccination. We’ve seen it already.”

Boston’s acting Mayor Kim Janey should move swiftly to stand up a similar program here in Boston. Janey has already shown leadership by sticking with a mask mandate for city schools this fall, a sensible move.

But, when asked on Tuesday about a potential NYC-like vaccine pass program, Janey seemed reluctant— at best— to go there. Her response to the question from reporters hinged on concerns about disproportionately creating barriers for residents of color, who have lower vaccination rates than the citywide average. She cited Jim Crow era laws, anti-immigrant sentiment and even Trump birtherism in her response.

Janey later amplified her position on Twitter, saying that while there are “no current plans for business sector vaccination mandates.” But her position seems to be unchanged: she doesn’t want to “ban” unvaccinated people from public spaces, she told WBUR the next day.

One of her mayoral opponents, Andrea Campbell, called Janey’s rhetoric “dangerous.”

“There is already too much misinformation directed at our residents about this pandemic, particularly Black and brown residents and it is incumbent upon us as leaders, particularly those of us who are Black, not to give these conspiracies any more oxygen,” said Campbell, who supports requiring proof of vaccination for entry into dining spaces and large venues.

As of Monday, 4,366,853 people in Massachusetts were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data provided by the state’s Department of Public Health. That’s roughly 64 percent of the state’s population— well ahead of the national average of roughly 50 percent. In Boston, according to the Public Health Commission, roughly 67 percent of eligible residents have received at least one dose of vaccine through July 27.

But more than one-third of the city and state’s resident aren’t yet protected, whether because of age ineligibility or because they have selfishly and foolishly refused to get it. In the case of adults, there should be a price to pay for this resistance to helping all of us as a society put this pandemic in the rear-view mirror. If you’re not on the team, keep your unvaccinated butt on the sidelines.

It’s not enough to simply hope more people listen to common sense and get vaccinated. Janey and her administration should take action immediately to get Bostonians, visitors, and our hospitality industry equipped to deploy a robust vaccine mandate and enforcement protocol to align with that of New York City, and, no doubt, other major metropolitan centers.

Bill Forry is the executive editor and publisher of the Reporter.

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