An iPhone displays the New York State Excelsior Pass Plus app...

An iPhone displays the New York State Excelsior Pass Plus app to verify COVID-19 vaccinations. Credit: Newsday/David Trotman-Wilkins

ALBANY — The popular state app for cellphones used for proving vaccination status for more than 8 million New Yorkers is presenting problems for a small number of people trying to update their status with second shots and boosters, state officials said.

In about 3% of cases, holders of expired Excelsior Passes are unable to apply successfully for the new Excelsior Pass Plus, Jason Gough, a spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul, told Newsday.

Some who are having difficulty have changed the cellphone numbers or email addresses they used in applying for the old Excelsior Pass, officials said.

The issue can be overcome by using the phone numbers and email addresses used in securing Excelsior Pass, even if those no longer are the preferred contacts for the user, officials said.

Also, some New Yorkers have experienced confusion when the app asks them to type in the date of their last shot.

The app is seeking the date of their second vaccination, not their booster shots.

Once the Excelsior Pass Plus is successfully completed, it will automatically add any booster shots that have been received, state officials said. New Yorkers just have to "retrieve" their pass on the state website, and the update is collected and added.

Charles Labozzetta, of Moriches, whose Excelsior Pass has expired, told Newsday he has had difficulty updating his Excelsior Pass Plus.

"The plan has great merit," Labozzetta said of the app.

"My phone number changed in early December, that’s where the problem is," he said. " … Whoever the state contracted with to administer the program, didn't see forward that people might change their cell number for a variety of reasons."

The passes can be used as proof of vaccination for stores, restaurants, entertainment and sporting events and other public spaces that require proof of vaccination.

Most New Yorkers who downloaded the Excelsior Pass app from an app store on the internet see a notice on the screen that the pass has expired.

Others see a notice that their Excelsior Pass will expire March 31, 2022.

New Yorkers can avoid carrying an expired Excelsior Pass by downloading the Excelsior Pass Plus app from the internet.

Once downloaded and opened, the Excelsior Pass Plus app guides users to confirm their identity and the dates of their vaccinations.

The Excelsior Pass Plus can be carried in the New York State Wallet app, and doesn’t expire.

New Yorkers are told to also have a separate photo identification when using the Excelsior Pass and Excelsior Pass Plus to get into venues that admit only vaccinated patrons.

"The overwhelming majority of users have a seamless experience," said Gough. "Millions of New Yorkers have retrieved their passes, with more doing so each day."

Labozzetta said when he called the state for assistance, he was told to go to the pharmacy where he had received his vaccinations in order to update his phone number.

He said he changed his phone number and his pass still didn't update.

"Someone didn’t think this phone issue through clearly," said Labozzetta, a retired medical imaging product specialist.

The state also provides a new and free app for businesses to scan the passes called the Excelsior Pass Scanner.

It is the first to validate SMART Health Cards issued by other states including New Jersey, Vermont and California, and also Canada.

The state has launched Excelsior Pass Blueprint for other states to create their own digital pass programs.

The state has posted a list of ways for New Yorkers to secure updated passes, along with frequently asked questions.

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