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New York launches nation's first ‘vaccine passport’

The Excelsior Pass — which helps confirm a person's proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results — is expected to be accepted at dozens of events, arts and entertainment venues in New York.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Starting Friday, New Yorkers will be able to pull up a code on their cell phone or a printout to prove they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the virus that causes it. 

The first-in-the-nation certification, called the Excelsior Pass, debuted late last week with Madison Square Garden and Albany's Times Union centers as two major venues using the technology. The pass will expand to smaller arts, entertainment and event venues in the state starting on April 2. It already enables people to increase the size of a wedding party, or other catered event. It also is available for free to businesses and anyone with vaccination records or test results in New York.

"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," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "The question of 'public health or the economy' has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. 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 Excelsior Pass is built on IBM's Digital Health Pass platform and is designed to make verifying health credentials — including test results and vaccination records — possible without the need to share underlying medical and personal information. Privacy has been emphasized, allowing for users to show a scannable QR code as proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test result via a smartphone wallet or printed credential without sharing personal health details. 

The initial set of labs who will report COVID-19 test results to New York's state health department's reporting system include Acutis Diagnostics, Aegis Sciences Corporation, BioReference Laboratories, Boston Heart Diagnostics, Broad Institute, Cayuga Medical Center, Clarity Lab Solutions, Lenco Diagnostic Laboratories, The Mount Sinai Hospital's Center for Clinical Laboratories, Northwell Health, Quest Diagnostics, Rapid Reliable Testing and UR Medicine Labs.

"IBM is proud to support the State of New York with its efforts to apply innovative technologies to help residents and communities respond to COVID-19," said Steve LaFleche, general manager of IBM public and federal markets. "In choosing a flexible and accessible tool that places security and privacy at its core, the state is modeling for the rest of the country how new, technology-enabled approaches can help safely reinvigorate economies while also striving to protect public health."