New York unveils first vaccine passport — what comes next

Excelsior Pass vaccine passport
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New York State just announced its first digital vaccine passport is officially rolling out. The program, called Excelsior Pass, will let people add a QR code to their smartphone's wallet proving their vaccination status or results of a recent Covid-19 test.

At launch, Excelsior Pass is intended for concert and other event venues, although businesses can begin applying for access. New York City's Madison Square Garden, where fans have recently returned for Knicks games, will start using the program this week. Though showing an Excelsior Pass is voluntary, it should make entering the venue faster and more efficient.

Those attending games at Madison Square Garden already need to show a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination to get into the arena. Now with Excelsior Pass, fans could scan their status, either via smartphone or QR code print-out, along with their game ticket.

To qualify for a permanent Excelsior Pass, you need to have been vaccinated in State of New York, and at least 14 days must have passed since your final shot. You can also qualify for temporary Excelsior Pass if you received a negative test result in New York within three days. 

If you qualify, you'll need to fill out a brief form on this website to verify your identity. As long as your information checks out, your Excelsior Pass can be added to your smartphone's digital wallet or printed out.

More vaccine passports in development

Meanwhile, President Biden's administration is looking to organize and unify vaccine passport development. Inconsistent requirements and credentials could complicate travel both on a national and federal level, possibly exacerbating health risks.

Of course, there are a number of accessibility complications that must be addressed. Some will struggle to get access to vaccines and/or the technology to support vaccine passports, while others could choose to skip vaccines entirely.

Travel trade groups, tech companies and other organizations are developing systems of credentials for those who are vaccinated. Certain airlines and other travel industry players have already voiced support for such a system, with American Airlines and British Airways testing VeriFly app passports on trans-Atlantic flights.

The International Air Transport Association's Travel Pass is also an app. According to the proposal, Travel Pass would allow passengers to set up a digital passport that verifies their test/vaccination meets a given country or area's regulations. 

We could see more states launch versions of Excelsior Pass before vaccine passports are encouraged for travel. According to the CDC, nearly 30% of the US population received at least one vaccination dose as of this week. As such, venues across the country could continue to follow Israel's lead in clearing those who are vaccinated for large public gatherings, like concerts or sporting events via virtual vaccine passport.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.