What is the NY Excelsior Pass? Details on the virtual vaccine card and the legality of the app


FILE – In this undated photo, provided by NY Governor’s Press Office on Saturday March 27, 2021, is the new “Excelsior Pass” app, a digital pass that people can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. (NY Governor’s Press Office via AP, File)

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(WETM) – The New York Excelsior Pass is a new state-developed application that can track vaccination history and COVID-19 testing data. Some sports and entertainment venues are requiring either a negative COVID-19 test or COVID-19 vaccination before attending an indoor event. This application looks to simplify the tracking system for patrons.

Many are questioning if the app is a violation of various privacy laws, including HIPAA. As it stands, HIPAA only applies to insurance and health care providers, saying those institutions cannot share personal health information publically. However, some experts say it does not appear that HIPAA covers disclosing vaccination records.

For example, employers and private businesses, like sports venues, can require COVID-19 vaccination or testing. This is legal and is not violating laws because they are private businesses. For state sanctioned or public matters, this can vary. For school students, the state can require certain vaccinations as a matter of public safety. There are exemptions to these provisions per the American Disability Act, anti-discrimination law and religious freedom laws.

“It’s very strange to me that on social media there is this obsession with privacy and knowing whether or not somebody’s vaccine status. That’s [privacy] not covered by law. The only people who would have to keep your vaccine status confidential would be the person who administered the vaccine to you,” Anna Czarples of Welch, Donlon & Czarples PLLC added.

Some are still skeptical to the legality of the vaccine passports and the New York Excelsior Pass. They feel it could be an intrusion of privacy.

“I’m not sure that’s a violation of your constitutional rights. How do we tell somebody who has chosen not to get vaccinated that they can’t attend a public event,” Chemung County Executive Chris Moss said.

Some legal experts say the right to privacy does not apply to matters of widespread public safety. Vaccine requirements can be considered necessary for public health and protection.

“People think that when they tell somebody their medical information that somehow that’s a private and secret transaction. The public health law in New York is what covers these types of discussions and situations. There are no privacy portions or subsections of that law that would give individual protection to knowing somebody’s status as to whether or not they have had a vaccine,” Czarples continued.

To view the full interview with Anna Czarples, Esq., click the video below.

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