When vaccines for COVID-19 began to become a reality, some speculated that we will soon have some kind of vaccine passport once events and travel begin to return to normal. It seems that New York State is the first to have something like this, as they have announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass. This is a free, voluntary and secure platform in partnership with IBM that people can use to bring their vaccine or PCR / Antigen negative results and that companies and venues can use to ensure that people entering their facilities are “safe”.
The app works similar to a mobile boarding pass that you used to board planes (remember them?). It will have all the user’s COVID-related information, including the most recent vaccination date or negative PCR or antigen test results. There will also be additional information such as a driver’s license to verify that it is indeed you. Users can use it to enter events or venues and use it as proof that they are healthy, at least as far as the coronavirus is concerned. The app will have a QR code that businesses and venues can scan with the companion app to verify the data.
This type of identification system will be able to accelerate the opening of businesses, as well as concerts, sporting events, theaters, weddings and other similar events. On the business side, venues and businesses will be able to register as the economy begins to reopen. At this time, only places that have a capacity of 10,000 and with a limit of 10% and basic health standards such as measures of social distancing, wearing of masks and taking temperature will be allowed to open.
Some major venues like Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Times Union Center in Albany will use the Excelsior Pass. By April 2, it will expand to smaller arts, entertainment, and events venues. They’ve already run two pilot demos in recent weeks in which thousands of New Yorkers tested the beta version of the app in a limited release and provided feedback on both the user interface and the results.
The Excelsior Pass relies on IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution to ensure users can obtain and store information and verify health credentials without the need to share other medical and personal information. The pass can also be printed in case users want to have a paper instead of an application. Let’s see how New Yorkers will react and use it, as it is still a kind of voluntary passport after all.