New York introduces digital ‘vaccination passport’

Photo (c) Vladimir Vladimirov - Getty Images

The app will show the user has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative

New York has become the first state to offer residents a digital “vaccine passport” they can load to their mobile device to offer proof they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the passport will make it easier to quickly reopen sporting and concert venues, as well as other smaller businesses where people tend to gather.

Called the Excelsior Pass, the app is designed to help New Yorkers voluntarily show they have either been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the virus. The app can be downloaded here.

Cuomo said Excelsior Pass can be used at theaters, stadiums, arenas, and wedding venues, all of which have largely been empty during the pandemic. He said Madison Square Garden and Times Union Center have already agreed to implement the system.

The app is similar to a mobile airline boarding pass. With it, people will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app.

Scannable QR code

Each pass will have a secure QR code that can be scanned at entrances and stadium gates using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination. Cuomo said an individual's data is kept secure and confidential.

"New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure," Cuomo said. 

Cuomo said the passport can be a critical step in reopening the economy, giving business owners and customers alike confidence that the risk from the virus is extremely low.

Economy and public health

"The question of 'public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both,” Cuomo said. “As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening."

The app is based on IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution and is designed to enable the secure verification of health credentials such as test results and vaccination records without the need to share underlying medical and personal information.

Mark Dorr, president of the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association, said the introduction of the app comes at a critical time and can help the tourism industry recover from the devastation it suffered over the last 12 months.

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