The Excelsior Pass is becoming one of the hottest tickets around for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the potential to open doors to sporting events, Broadway shows and travel.
But not all have been able to access the downloadable digital pass, which was announced by the state in March as a way for New Yorkers to prove they have received the vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test. Some are finding that they are not in the state database.
Jennifer Givner, a spokesperson for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said the "overwhelming majority of users have a seamless experience" accessing the pass, which can be downloaded to a smartphone app.
Not John Petrizzi of North Babylon, who got his second shot on Jan. 24 and is still trying to access the pass. Petrizzi was vaccinated by CVS at the health care facility where he works. He first tried getting a pass on March 29.
"I was told my information was not in the system," Petrizzi said.
What to know
The New York State Excelsior Pass provides proof you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the coronavirus.
To get a pass, log on to epass.ny.gov. Passes can be printed or downloaded on your smartphone.
The COVID-19 Vaccination Pass is available 15 days after the final dose of the vaccine was administered and is valid for 180 days after the final dose of the vaccine was administered, at which time a new pass may be retrieved.
Petrizzi said he since has made multiple calls and sent emails to the state and CVS to see what he can do to fix the error. The New York Islanders hockey team fan said he was hoping the pass would make it easier to attend games.
"I’d rather not carry my original vaccine card," he said. The digital pass is meant to be more convenient than carrying a vaccination card.
People who were vaccinated through CVS and have an issue getting a pass should contact the state, company spokesperson Tara Burke said Thursday. But Givner said those who have trouble getting a pass should go back to the place where they were vaccinated and check their information. She said all vaccine administrators, such as CVS, are required to submit data to the state and New York City databases. Those administrators should have staff that can correct any problems with data, she said.
The pass is designed to make it easier for people to attend indoor and outdoor events at entertainment venues and other sites with proof they have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19. Passholders should have photo identification to verify it's their pass.
For example, 50% of seats at the Nassau Coliseum are being set aside for fully vaccinated people for the upcoming Islanders playoff games.
Starting Wednesday, full capacity seating at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will be available for fully vaccinated people. The capacity will be 33% for people who are not vaccinated.
Broadway shows are selling tickets for a Sept. 14 reopening, but theater owners have not yet said if they will require vaccinations or arrange special seating for audience members.
'Dates were wrong, the locations were wrong'
Dave Horowitz of Long Beach got his second shot in February at a pop-up site in Brooklyn. He tried to get a pass when it first rolled out in March, but when he clicked into the state’s site, epass.ny.gov, he couldn’t find his information.
"The dates were wrong, the locations were wrong," Horowitz said. Since the Brooklyn pop-up site had closed, he emailed the address listed for support on the Excelsior Pass site multiple times but did not receive a reply.
When Horowitz tried again on Wednesday to get a pass, he received a response that said his data could not be verified.
"I’m sure I’m not the only one who is having a problem," he said.
State officials wouldn't say exactly how many people have downloaded the pass but that "hundreds of thousands" of New Yorkers are doing so daily. People who were vaccinated at state-run sites and have problems accessing the pass should contact the NYS COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 833-697-4829, Givner said.
When people log into the site, they are asked to provide their name, date of birth and ZIP code. The next window asks when their last vaccination was, the county where it took place and the brand of vaccine: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
The pass can be printed or downloaded to smartphones. The vaccination pass is valid for 180 days after the final dose was administered, but passholders can retrieve a new one after that deadline. The PCR Test Pass is valid until midnight on the third day after a test, and the Antigen Test Pass is valid for six hours from the time of a test.
Some Long Islanders said they haven't gotten past the first screen of the process.
Andrea Rothbort of Old Bethpage had her second shot on Feb. 14 at a Northwell Health-GoHealth site in Northport and wanted the pass so she could show her vaccination status when going to her son’s college graduation on Friday.
"I thought if I had the pass, it would be easier to get into graduation," said Rothbort, a teacher.
For several weeks, she received the message "We Couldn’t Find Your Pass," after logging into the site and answering questions.
"I tried calling Northwell GoHealth a few times. Every time, I was connected to an offshore operator who had no answers for me and didn’t even know what the Excelsior Pass is," she said.
When she tried to get the pass one more time on her phone early last week, it worked.
Developed through a partnership with IBM, Cuomo heralded the pass as "another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure."
The state is paying IBM $2.5 million for the platform, which the company said has multiple security systems in place to safeguard personal information. The app developer and state cannot identify specific users of the app, nor access personal information, the governor's office said. Any data provided by users won't be used for sales, marketing or shared with a third party, the state said.
The pass only works for people who were vaccinated in New York, but may be expanded in the future to include people vaccinated in other states, officials said. Venues that scan the Excelsior Pass also are not able to download or store that information, according to the state.
Northwell Health, one of the major vaccination administrators on Long Island, encouraged people to reach out to their providers if they are not able to download the pass.
"Excelsior Pass is a very good system that is fed by multiple registries," said Dr. Kevin Bock, associate chief medical information officer at New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health. "As a result, patient matching and transmission issues may occasionally impact data delivery."
With Erin Serpico