Jumping on a plane to a far-away beach, cheering on your favorite team or going on a shopping spree might seem like the perfect antidote to a brutal year.
But be prepared to get vaccinated before you do any of those things – proof of a Covid-19 vaccine may be required to take part in many leisure activities next year.
Ticketmaster, for example, recently warned that event organizers might require a vaccination before buying a ticket (the ticket giant won’t require proof on its own). Airlines are creating a potential “digital Covid-19 vaccine passport” for travelers. Cruise operators are looking into that, too.
And that’s completely legal.
In essence, a private business can decide who to allow on private property, whether that be an airplane, a sports arena, or a mall. And there’s no legal protection for those who refuse to get vaccinated and want to patronize a private business. (That’s aside from government mandates, which are not addressed here.)
Just like businesses can make you wear a mask, they can also require you show proof of vaccination, said Stewart Schwab, a professor of law at Cornell University. It’s the same legal right businesses have, for example, to refuse service to someone without a shirt or shoes.
There are really only two exceptions to the rule: people with a documented medical condition that makes them unable to take a vaccine, and those with a sincere religious belief against vaccines, Schwab said.
In either case, the burden is on you to show why you are unable to take the vaccine, Schwab said.
Of course, just because it’s legal to require a vaccine doesn’t mean that businesses will.
Due to the nature of flying, proof of a vaccine might be required sooner than other activities, according to industry experts.
But it’s much harder to police a vaccine mandate at a mall or inside a big-box store, Schwab noted.
There’s talk of a vaccine passport or card that people can carry around as proof. But what if someone says they have a medical disability or a religious exemption?
Sorting out those types of headaches might be more trouble than it’s worth for most retailers, Schwab suggested. Businesses might be more willing – especially at the beginning of the vaccine roll-out – to continue their facemask and social-distancing mandates that have become commonplace to this point.
At the end of the day, though, a customer is there at the permission of a private business.
“You gotta wear a mask to come into a store,” Schwab noted. “I think that’s basically well-accepted. Once they can do that, what’s the difference with a vaccine?”