The show must go on. But if you got the AstraZeneca vaccine, you’re not invited.
Canadians who got that shot will not, at least for now, be allowed in seats for “Springsteen on Broadway” the first production since the famous theatres went dark at the start of the pandemic.
“It’s just plain not fair,” said University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman. While the Canada-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel, it’s expected to open soon, and though making it to a show is not a life-or-death situation, “it’s a huge problem.”
It could also be just the beginning of bureaucratic vaccine woes, as the world starts to reopen with a patchwork of different approved shots.
“From an ethical point of view it’s very difficult, because what has happened is people have made their commitment to being vaccinated for their own health and the health of their communities and the world, and people are turning their nose up at it,” Bowman said.
AstraZeneca was approved by Health Canada, but not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. First doses have since been stopped in Ontario due to safety issues with blood clots, but many have opted to go ahead with second shots or mix with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
According to a Q and A posted on the theatre’s website, guests at “Springsteen on Broadway,” an intimate show featuring The Boss performing solo starting June 26, will need to be fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved jab. That means at least two weeks days after a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. Or at least 14 days after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine.
Guests will have to provide proof of vaccination from their health-care provider on a smartphone, or with a physical copy.
Sadly for the many GenXers who got AstraZeneca firmly in Springsteen’s demo, “at the direction of New York state only FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson) will be accepted.”
The only exception is for children under 16, who must be taken by a vaccinated adult and provide proof of a negative rapid COVID test taken within six hours of the performance, or a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken within 72 hours.
The theatre and the New York governor’s office did not respond to requests for comments by deadline.
The no-AZ policy touches on a larger problem, said Bowman: the lack of international co-ordination on a registry of acceptable vaccines, that will become more of a problem as countries start to open up again.
“As we roll into 2022 there’s going to be just this mosaic of different vaccine backgrounds that people have and there’s got to be an A list,” he said. “We have got to figure this out.”
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AstraZeneca has been used in a number of jurisdictions, including Britain, he notes.
China and Russia have their own vaccines, which are already being used beyond their borders. Brazil is buying the single-shot Chinese vaccine, and Algeria is administering Russia’s Sputnik V, neither of which is approved by the FDA or Health Canada.
This means “people coming back into Canada who have had vaccines not recognized in Canada will have the same problem” as those barred from Broadway, said Kelley Lee, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Health Governance at Simon Fraser University.
“It’s a real reflection of how chaotic it’s been. Countries adopted their own travel measures when the pandemic occurred and now when they’re trying to ease them, it’s no surprise.”
The level of vaccination in different countries, as well as testing and quarantine protocols, also varies, said Lee, who noted the vaccine passport idea has been driven by industry groups “keen to get business going,” and not the World Health Organization. It will be really important to follow the “real-world data on vaccine efficacy” to know which ones work.
“We would ideally need a global system that would give everyone the same treatment in terms of their immunization status and it would be reliable and secure,” she said. “We don’t have anything like that.”
With almost 60 per cent of adults fully vaccinated, New York City is roaring back to life, well beyond Broadway, and proof of vaccination is increasingly the golden ticket to join in the fun.
Several late-night shows have opened up tapings to live audiences again, but they, too, need to be fully vaccinated. According to NBC’s website, AZ does not make the cut for “Saturday Night Live,” or “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
New York state has also launched the Excelsior Pass, which lets you share you vaccine or negative test status on your phone with a QR code, and provides access to theatres, stadiums, and other events. For now it’s only open to those who have been fully vaccinated in the state.
Things are starting to open up, but Lee added that it’s important to recognize we’re still in a transition phase, especially globally.
“I think we need to be patient, and I think Americans are getting a little more impatient,” she said.
“I have had AstraZeneca so I guess I won’t be able to go to Broadway.”
May Warren is a Toronto-based breaking news reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11
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