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Why IBM, NY State vaccine passport foreshadows more mainstream adoption

Free and voluntary adoption of vaccine passports is going to be moved along with significant perks -- like access to live sports, concerts, and other events
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on
Yellow book International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophyla

New York State's move to launch Excelsior Pass, a digital vaccine passport, built on IBM technology is likely to pave the way for more mainstream adoption.

IBM's Digital Health Pass is a blockchain-based tool for consumers to share vaccine status and COVID-19 test results in a secure and private way. New York is emphasizing that Excelsior Pass, which had a test run earlier this month, is free and voluntary. IBM's technology has been integrated by Salesforce.

However, the idea is that free and voluntary adoption of vaccine passports is going to be moved along with significant perks -- like access to live sports, concerts, and other events.

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In New York State's announcement, the state outlined links for businesses and consumers to opt into Excelsior Pass. Madison Square Garden will begin using the technology this week. Other venues are expected to follow once smaller arts, entertainment, and event venues are eligible on April 2.

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New York State

Given that New York is the first to use the technology, you can expect other states to follow as they open venues and aim to bring back crowds 100%. Private companies may require documentation and the app approach will make it easier to share information to gain entry.

Why will this technology be more accepted? Here are a few reasons:

  • States want to reopen, and IBM's federal and government unit has a white-label technology and installed base. I'm also betting that, if consumers can control their data and do it in a secure way, they'll go for the trade-off between vaccination for access. Excelsior Pass is only accepted in New York for now.
  • Regulations may dictate that events like weddings and social events can have larger numbers if people are vaccinated.
  • The vaccine passport interface is familiar -- a QR code system that will be familiar to anyone who has used a mobile boarding pass.
  • Other countries are already going the vaccine passport route as are airlines.
  • Major labs have committed to rapid reporting of COVID test results so people can get results in time for a start of an event.
  • And ultimately your employer is likely to want to verify COVID-19 test results and vaccination status. Companies aren't likely to build their own apps for a bunch of reasons but can piggyback on state, government. and consumer-endorsed vaccine passports.
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