vaccine needles

Vaccine Mandate Information • January 3rd, 2022

Below are answers to many of your common questions regarding the vaccine mandate.

Click HERE to read more about the process of verifying vaccination status. It is a PDF which you may want to print out and either hang up in your business or distribute to your employees.


The FAQ below are some of the most frequent questions the Health Department has received since announcing the vaccine mandate for indoor dining that begins on January 3, 2022.

What are the deadlines for the mandate?

January 3: Mandate becomes effective

  • Employees must have received a least one shot or provide exemption (medical or religious).
  • Customers 12 and over must provide proof of vaccination or exemption (medical or religious).
  • Children 5 years/3 months–11 years must have received at least one shot.
  • Gatherings of 25+ or more must provide proof of vaccination or exemption (under 5 years and 3 months, medical or religious)

January 3-January 17
: Grace period

  • Customers only may present proof of negative test within 24 hours of entry regardless of exemption status.

February 3

  • Employees must have received a second shot (if applicable, depending on which vaccine they received).
  • Customers 5 years/3 months–11 years must have received a second shot.

What COVID-19 vaccines are acceptable for the mandate?

An acceptable COVID-19 vaccine is one that has been authorized or approved by either the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization to prevent COVID-19, whether for emergency use or otherwise.

Will City increase the number of COVID-19 testing sites?

No. There is already wide availability of testing options in Philadelphia.

Will City reimburse people for testing? Many employees cannot afford testing.

No. The City does not provide reimbursement to the general public. Customers are advised to consult their health care provider, and employers should work with their human resources or legal departments regarding employee testing.

Are there new rules for outdoor dining?

No. Unmasked and unvaccinated customers are permitted at outdoor dining sites. Individuals must wear a mask when going indoors to use the bathroom.

Is there still a mask mandate?

Yes. Find out more about Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate.

Can this be delayed? A 30-day delay would help with implementation rollout and staff compliance.

No, we don’t have that time. Cases are already increasing and some hospitals are already at capacity. We need this additional tool to stop the wave now before our hospitals are overwhelmed.

What is the City’s strategy for enforcement?

As with other COVID-19 restrictions, enforcement will be through the Health Department’s Environmental Health Services and will begin with education.

Are home tests acceptable for proof of a negative test proof?

Home tests used off-site by customers seeking to gain entry cannot be verified and are not acceptable. An establishment can accept PCR or antigen rapid test results from pharmacies, labs, clinics, or other non-home testing providers for customers (until January 17 only; see “grace period” under question above).

An employer may choose to allow exempt (medical, religious) employees to use home tests on-site, or may implement their own requirements for providing proof of testing results.  Please note, there is no grace period for employees; all must comply with the deadline schedule detailed above.

Is it the responsibility of caterers to make sure guests are vaccinated?

Yes. Caterers will be required to verify vaccination status and/or exemption requests.  Venue hosts are also responsible to know the nature of the event and should include the caterer’s responsibility in contracts.

Does fully vaccinated include booster?

No, boosters are not required to be considered fully vaccinated.

For customers under 18, what is the process for verifying IDs against a vaccine card? Many under 18 do not have photo ID.

Photo ID will only be required for people 18 and over. This can be any form of ID that includes a photo and full name of the individual presenting their status or exemption request.

For entertainment venues: Once the mandate begins on January 3, 2022, is the audience required to mask?

If the location is allowing any unvaccinated individuals (audience, crew, performers, vendors, etc.), then yes. If the performer(s) is unmasked, then yes, regardless of vaccination status.

For entertainment venues: Once the mandate begins on January 3, 2022, is the performer required to mask?

No, the performer does not have to mask while performing but should be sufficiently distanced from the audience.

For entertainment venues: Once the mandate begins on January 3, 2022, does the audience need to mask if no food are drink are served?

Yes. The City’s indoor mask mandate still applies unless the venue can guarantee 100% vaccination of all individuals on the premises.

Supermarkets are excluded, but what about a restaurant that is operating inside a supermarket?

The restaurant inside the supermarket is covered under the mandate. The mandate also applies to cafes with seating areas in large retail stores.

How do we verify vaccination status?

See How to verify someone’s immunization records (PDF).

How does the vaccine mandate affect staff lunch rooms?

The vaccine mandate does not apply to staff who are simply bringing lunch to eat in the lunch room.

If we serve food at the door only (take-out), are proof of vaccinations required

Establishments that only do takeout and/or outside dining are not subject to the mandate.

Current protocols state that if an organization has an event with food, guests must be seated when eating or drinking. Is that requirement going to continue?

It depends. If you allow only fully vaccinated people into the establishment, then there are no further restrictions. If people with exemptions or children less than 5 years/3 months are allowed in, then the mask mandate remains in place and people must be seated to eat or drink.

We have an outdoor tent area where we serve food, but that tent has plastic drapery that extends to the ground. Does that count as an indoor space or an outdoor space?

To qualify as an outdoor space, the tent must be open on two sides.

Do vaccine mandates for employees only apply to the food service workers? Or to all facility employees on site?

The vaccine mandate applies to all workers inside the establishment.

(Initially sent via email Dec. 30, 2021)

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