A passport is designed to help you prove you're a citizen of a particular country. But now, New York state has created a passport so citizens can prove their COVID-19 vaccination status to gain access to certain locations or events.
The New York Post reports the program, which is named the "Excelsior Pass," is an app that allows New Yorkers to prove their vaccination status, or recent history of a negative COVID-19 test, in order to gain entry to events and businesses. The program launched on Friday.
"Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app," a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office explained.
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Each pass will have a secure QR code which businesses and other venues can scan with a companion app to verify negative COVID-19 test results or proof of vaccination.
All information concerning the individual will be secure at all times using encryption and blockchain technology, according to the Post.
The app will not display any health information about the phone's owner. The pass will display a green checkmark to indicate a vaccination or a negative test result, and a red "X" if the individual hasn't had either one.
The Excelsior Pass can be used to attend wedding receptions, which now require negative tests from those attending, as well as other events above the social gathering limit. According to the state health department, those limits are now set at 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. The mask and face-covering mandate still apply.
"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," Cuomo said.
First University in the U.S. Says Students Must Get COVID-19 Before Returning to Campus
Rutgers University in New Jersey has announced it will require all of its 71,000 students to get a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to the school's campus this fall.
"We are committed to health and safety for all members of our community, and adding COVID-19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students," said Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway.
The university also issued a statement on its new policy, noting the school will not require its staff and faculty to be vaccinated.
"Students may request an exemption from vaccination for medical or religious reasons. Students enrolled in fully remote online degree programs and individuals participating in online-only continuing education programs will not be required to be vaccinated," the statement read.
Other schools may require their students to be vaccinated as well, according to the Poynter Institute.
Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, told NBC News, "I'm just starting to hear discussion about mandating vaccines, and everyone I've talked to has said that they are leaning in the direction of mandating vaccines not just with the students, but with faculty and staff, as well."
If colleges across the country push for vaccinations, they could wind up in court. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance for the vaccines stipulate they are approved for "emergency use" meaning they are voluntary and under an "Emergency Use Authorization," the Poynter Institute noted. The CDC said people "have the option to accept or refuse the EUA product."
NBC News also contacted several other universities about the possibility of requiring students to be vaccinated before returning to campus. A spokesperson for the University of California president's office told the network that "at this time, we do not anticipate making the COVID-19 vaccines mandatory." The University of Notre Dame said "no decision has been made" about a mandate for students returning in the fall. The University of Michigan won't require vaccinations for students "at this time." At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, vaccinations aren't required "at this time."
Schools can require vaccinations if they are state or a public school. There are almost 100 years of legal precedence to back this up.
However, a researcher writing in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine notes almost every state has exemptions.
"Religious and other exemptions to mandatory vaccination laws are not required by the U.S. Constitution. However, since 100 percent immunization rates are not needed to achieve herd immunity, most state governments have chosen to exempt certain individuals from their mandatory vaccination requirements, believing that communities can obtain herd immunity even if such individuals do not become immunized," Anthony Ciolli wrote in his article titled Mandatory School Vaccinations: The Role of Tort Law.
"Most notably, 48 out of 50 states have exempted those whose religious beliefs forbid vaccination. Eighteen states also have made the more controversial decision to exempt individuals who claim to possess non-religious cultural or philosophical objections to vaccines, which in some states are granted merely by checking one box on a simple form," Ciolli continued.
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