New York Ends ‘Excelsior’ COVID-19 Vaccine Passport App

New York Ends ‘Excelsior’ COVID-19 Vaccine Passport App
New York's "Excelsior Pass" COVID-19 vaccine passport app is displayed on cellphones, in a file photo. (NY Governor's Press Office via AP/File)
Tom Ozimek

New York officials have announced the end of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine passport app, as demand has dried up for the pandemic-era relic that critics call discriminatory.

The plug will be pulled on the Excelsior Pass Plus (EPP) on July 28, amid plummeting demand for access to digital test and vaccine records and as the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended.

First launched in 2021, the app costs New York state around $200,000 per month to maintain, according to the Times Union of Albany.

The app stored a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status and was used to demonstrate compliance with vaccine requirements to gain access to certain venues.

News of the impending shutdown of the app drew praise from critics of pandemic lockdowns and other strict measures.

“Today, NY shut down its useless, discriminatory covid app ‘Excelsior Pass’. It was used to exclude citizens from libraries, restaurants & public spaces,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, said in a tweet.
Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist, was one of the key figures behind the Great Barrington Declaration, which was one of the first public declarations challenging pandemic lockdown policies as damaging to physical and mental health.
New York officials said that the data collected for the digital COVID-19 pass “continues to be private and secure,” while hinting that the app might be revived at some point down the road.

Future Revival?

Officials said deployment of the app has provided New York authorities with valuable knowledge on digital credentialing and there remains “interest in the potential this type of technology could bring in the future,” hinting that enthusiasm for vaccine passports and similar solutions remains strong among public officials.

“You can leave the pass on your phone in the event you ever need it in the future,” officials said, adding that vaccine enthusiasts will still be able to open the app and “use” it to prove to others that they’re jabbed.

“However, if the app fails, technical support will no longer be available,” officials added.

The Excelsior app was supposed to cost a mere $2.5 million when it made its debut in spring of 2021, though reports indicate that the cost has ballooned to around $64 million.

“What seems to be happening is a bonafide crisis opened the door to spending a lot of money off the radar without the usual checks and balances, without the usual oversight of the comptroller,” Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, told the Times Union in May.
Vaccine passports like the Excelsior app have been criticized as being part of a broader push toward a system of digital surveillance that some critics have warned would usher in a “digital gulag” in which the non-compliant face all manner of restrictions.

‘Digital Gulag’

Journalist Nick Corbishley, who writes about economic and political trends in Europe and Latin America, has warned that vaccine passports can lead to the adoption of a global digital identity scheme that will threaten privacy and freedom across the world.
“It’s like this checkpoint society. Wherever you want to go, you have to show your mobile phone, your identity … even if it’s just to go into a supermarket or go into a shop,” he said on EpochTV’s “Crossroads.”

Corbishley described the negative aspects of a global digital identification scheme as a kind of “digital gulag“ in which people could be ”effectively banished from society.”

“That is a terrifying vision,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said recently it will take up the European Union’s digital COVID-19 vaccine passport framework as part of a new global network of digital health certificates.

The WHO said in a June 5 statement that it had entered into a “landmark digital health partnership” with the European Commission (EC), the European Union’s executive body.

As part of this new joint venture, Europe’s existing framework of digital vaccine passports will serve as the first building block of a global network of digital health products.

The WHO said that, as part of the new initiative, it will “take up the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system that will help facilitate global mobility and protect citizens across the world from on-going and future health threats.”

Dubbed the Global Digital Health Certification Network, the new vaccine passport framework has already drawn criticism, with Australian senator Alex Antic saying in a statement that the move is “just another conspiracy theory coming true.”
Vaccine passports—and various other forms of digital identity schemes—have been criticized as an invasion of privacy and as having the potential to enable governments and corporations to coerce human behavior by, for instance, denying access to infrastructure or services.

The EU’s digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate entered into force in July 2021, with over 2.3 billion certificates issued. But as the pandemic has waned, its use has dwindled, much like New York’s Excelsior pass.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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