New York's COVID-19 vaccine passport may cost taxpayers $17M

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In March, New York became the first state to launch a COVID-19 vaccine passport through a contract with IBM, but the state may have bigger plans to expand the digital platform that could end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars, according to a June 9 New York Times report. 

New York teamed up with IBM to develop Excelsior Pass, which is free and voluntary for New Yorkers to use to confirm recent negative PCR or antigen test results as well as proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

The state's three-year contract with IBM, which was obtained by an advocacy group and shared with the Times, establishes a foundation for a future where at least 10 million New Yorkers would have an Excelsior Pass, which would provide not just their vaccination status but also other personal information like proof of age, driver's license and other health records, according to the report. 

The state originally said it cost $2.5 million to develop the program, but under the expansion plans that price could end up being as high as $17 million. The contract estimates that two-thirds of the adult population in New York will download passes by 2024 and allocates $2.2 million for the optional roll out of a phase 2 of the project, the nature of which was not announced, the Times reported. New York anticipates the federal government will reimburse all funds for the project. 

The state had only discussed the $2.5 million initial cost because that was what it had already spent, a New York budget office spokesperson told the publication, adding that the state was negotiating the scope and cost of phase 2 of the digital passport with IBM and the contract's estimate of 10 million passes by 2024 was not a forecast but instead "the highest usage threshold established for pricing."


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