The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club is one week into enforcing its new vaccine requirement for indoor dining and co-owner Briana Volk says that asking customers to produce a vaccination card has gone well.

“We’re a bar. We card people all the time. This is just another way of carding,” Volk said. “It’s really not a big deal. No one in person has been upset about it.” She said the restaurant has taken some criticism online about the move, but most people are supportive.

The restaurant’s rule is just one of many vaccine mandates starting to become more common with the delta variant of COVID-19 surging across the country. A growing number of colleges, health care systems, the military, governments and major employers also are implementing vaccine mandates as a condition of employment or to attend school.

The moves mean that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination record card issued when a person is inoculated will become important proof of protection, either shown directly or, perhaps, photographed or scanned so that the image can be uploaded into an application or portal used to verify vaccination.

Details are still emerging on how employers and schools will implement vaccine requirements as a condition of work or to attend classes. K-12 schools are so far not requiring COVID-19 vaccines for attendance, in large part because the vaccine isn’t yet approved for those under age 12. Food and Drug Administration approval for schoolchildren is expected sometime this fall or winter.

If a Maine resident loses a vaccination card, they can still prove they got their shots. The state maintains a database of vaccinations given, and other states have set up similar systems.

Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that while the agency does not issue replacement cards, those who’ve lost their card can email [email protected] or call 207-287-3746 to obtain a copy of their vaccination record, which would be sent by email or regular mail.

Many doctor’s offices and health care networks have copies of patients’ immunization records, including for COVID-19.

MaineHealth, the parent company of Maine Medical Center in Portland and a health care network that includes 23,000 employees, is mandating that its employees get the COVID-19 shots by October.

John Porter, MaineHealth spokesman, said the vaccination card “is not the be-all, end-all record” and that the health network’s human resources department will work with employees to verify that they got their shots.

“Our HR department has a verification system, and we already have set up the record-keeping infrastructure for this,” Porter said.

Major employers like Google, Tyson Foods, Walmart and others are joining health care systems in requiring vaccination as a condition of employment. The U.S. military added the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of mandatory vaccinations on Monday.

National news outlets have reported concerns that the system could be ripe for fraud, especially for returning college students willing to fork out $200 or more for fake immunization cards. With an estimated 675 colleges and universities mandating vaccinations for students and staff this fall, some who are opposed to getting their shots may be willing to purchase fake cards instead of stopping into a clinic or drugstore to get free and easily-available vaccines.

Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the University of Maine System, said while fraud is possible in any system, any student who submits a fake vaccination card is risking discipline. For instance, if a vaccinated student falls ill with COVID-19, the system could check their vaccination records, and the student would be disciplined if the record is found to be fraudulent.

“We have an expectation that people will provide accurate information,” Demeritt said. “Those that don’t would be violating the student code of conduct.”

Among restaurants in Maine, the Hunt & Alpine Club is still one of the few taking the plunge to require vaccination for indoor dining. Volk, the restaurant co-owner, said a citywide or statewide requirement for vaccination to dine indoors would be helpful to restaurant owners and managers who don’t want to impose their own restrictions for fear of unvaccinated customers becoming angry.

In New York City, proof of vaccination will be required for indoor dining beginning Aug. 16. New York state has launched a phone app, the Excelsior Pass, which contains uploaded information from a vaccination card, to make it easy for people to show their vaccination status to whoever needs to see it.

Volk said customers at her Portland restaurant have started holding the card in hand or the photo of the card on their phone as they come in, ready to provide proof of their COVID-19 shots. Unvaccinated customers can still dine on the patio.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say that they are happy we are doing this, because it makes them feel safer when they dine in,” Volk said.

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