These apps allow you to show proof of the Covid vaccine in New York

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Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement on Tuesday that people participating in indoor activities at restaurants, gyms, cinemas and shows in New York City are due to show proof of coronavirus vaccination soon has sparked a multitude of questions from from New Yorkers: How do I show vaccination status? Which vaccine application is the best? What if I lost my card? What if I got vaccinated in another country?

There are several main ways to prove you’re vaccinated, said de Blasio: a new app released by the city called NYC Covid Safe; the State’s Excelsior Pass; or by simply presenting your paper vaccination record or a copy of your official vaccination record.

A city hall spokeswoman said on Wednesday that all vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization – including those offered by AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sinovac – would also be acceptable to fulfill the mandate. People vaccinated abroad can present or submit their vaccination record from the place where the vaccine was administered.

But this raises additional questions about how hosts or reception staff will be able to verify the accuracy of foreign language documents. The city said those details remained to be worked out.

“At the end of the day, someone will have to have proof,” de Blasio said in his briefing on Tuesday. “As long as this evidence is accurate and real, wherever it comes from, that’s what they’ll have to show.”

Here is what we know:

Starting August 16, indoor restaurants, indoor fitness rooms and indoor entertainment venues, such as cinemas, concert halls and nightclubs, must check for vaccination status, the city said. The requirement will apply to both customers and workers. Enforcement won’t start until September 13, so businesses will have a grace period to determine how to follow the new mandate.

Children under 12 are still not eligible to receive the vaccines. On Wednesday morning, Mr de Blasio said they would be allowed to enter restaurants with vaccinated adults if they are masked.

Some adults have benefited or may benefit from medical or religious exemptions which would allow them not to be vaccinated. The city has not yet announced whether people in this category will be allowed to participate in indoor activities in places that will require proof of vaccination.

The city’s new app, NYC Covid Safe, is very straightforward. It is basically a camera app that allows users to take a picture of their vaccination card and store it in the app. It does not check if the image represents a real card.

The Excelsior Pass is New York State’s vaccination passport application. It debuted in March as the first government-issued vaccine passport application in the country. He checks requests against city and state immunization records.

More than 2.5 million New Yorkers have downloaded or printed an Excelsior Pass since its inception, according to the State Department of Health.

Both can be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores.

Here’s how Excelsior works: The app finds the official record of people vaccinated in New York State and issues a pass containing a unique QR code certifying that they have been vaccinated. The code is generated 15 days after the person has been completely vaccinated. It can be stored on a person’s phone or printed.

But Excelsior Pass can be finicky. In order to find a person’s vaccination record, they compare their name, date of birth, postal code and country of vaccination with the vaccine registry. If almost all of the information does not match what was entered by the immunization agency, even because of a typo, the pass will not be generated. Some 4% of users who tried to get passes in the first few months of the app couldn’t, the state said.

If Excelsior cannot find your vaccination record, you can use the city app if you don’t want to carry your card.

The NYC Covid Safe app can easily be used after it has been downloaded. It allows people to show a photo of their vaccination record after the first dose of a two-dose vaccine, or any other proof of vaccination they may have. (One dose of a two-dose vaccine is sufficient to meet the new mandate, although this provides only a fraction of the protection obtained by obtaining both doses.)

To demonstrate potential issues with the NYC Covid Safe app, Huge Ma, a New Yorker who developed TurboVax, a widely used website that streamlines the city’s vaccine appointment system, showed on Twitter that ‘he uploaded a photo of a cat with green eyes to the application, instead of their vaccination card.

Albert Fox Cahn, who directs the Surveillance Technology Supervision Project, a nonprofit privacy group, uploaded a photo of Mickey Mouse in the app, instead of his card.

Both images got a green check mark from the app.

“The New York City app is a camera app dressed as a health tracker,” Mr. Cahn said. “It’s not fundamentally a meaningful guarantee.”

In response, the city said the green check mark indicates a photo has been uploaded, but is not intended to signal the photo is verified.

“Someone checking vaccination cards at the door of a restaurant or venue would see that these examples are not proper vaccination cards and act accordingly,” said Laura Feyer, city hall spokeswoman .

The app can help people organize their immunization card photos, ID, and test results in one place. It also does not pose major privacy concerns, as it does not communicate with government registries.

But the problem, Mr Cahn said, is that it lends an aura of security to what is essentially a self-certified screenshot of a vaccine card, which can be tampered with quite easily.

“When you see a paper map, you see it for what it is, because we know how easy it is to make,” he said. “But because it has that green check mark, people may think it’s somehow safer, and it isn’t.”

One of the problems with the Excelsior Pass is that a user can easily download someone else’s pass, if they know the basic information about the person’s identity, place and date of vaccination. . Sites should also verify an ID to verify that the person’s identity matches the vaccination card in the app, but in practice this does not always happen.

And some people have raised other privacy concerns, despite promises from the state and IBM, which developed the Excelsior Pass, that it uses blockchain technology to protect its data and does not track location. of a user.

City officials point out that the paper card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and used nationwide serves as proof. City residents who have lost their card can search online or write to city ​​vaccination register ask for a paper vaccination record.

Several private companies are entering the vaccine passport business, including CLEAR, who rose to prominence by developing a card that allowed people to speed up security checks at airports. It’s unclear which of these private efforts will be accepted by city venues.

The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that the federal government will not create a national passport for vaccines due to privacy concerns. But as more places start asking for evidence, there could be a broader call for national standards.

People vaccinated in the United States can still use the city app, the paper map, and most likely a photo on their smartphone of their paper map.

New Yorkers vaccinated out of state can also get an Excelsior Pass, if they have their health care provider upload this information to New York’s vaccine registries, the state said.

The city hall said on Wednesday that foreign documents showing people received one of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization would also be acceptable. There are now eight such vaccines: all three approved for use in the United States, plus AstraZeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, Astra Zeneca EU, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

The city does not yet have details on how it will ensure staff at companies under the mandate can verify these documents, which may be in other languages.

“They are introducing it gradually, understanding that there are going to be hiccups,” said Dr Céline Gounder, an epidemiologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, who attended the mayor’s press conference announcing the new terms.

“Each state has its own vaccination registry, and they vary widely in terms of quality,” she said. “What do you do about that? What do you do with the people who have received Novavax in clinical trials? These are some of the gaps that will be filled.”


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