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Baker Deflects Talk Of Vaccine Passports

Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to press at the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston. (Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images)
Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to press at the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston. (Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images)

With over 1.5 million people in Massachusetts fully vaccinated, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday that his administration has no plans to follow the lead of states like New York and implement a vaccine pass system to expedite the reopening of large sports and entertainment venues or to allow for larger conferences and social gatherings.

Baker repeatedly said "no" when asked about planning for vaccine credentials, insisting his focus was on getting millions more Bay State residents vaccinated first. He said there would be "plenty of time to talk about some of this other stuff."

"I want to vaccinate people. Let's get people vaccinated," Baker said. "I think having a conversation about creating a barrier before people have even had an opportunity to be eligible to be vaccinated, let's focus on getting people vaccinated."

The governor's comments came a little over a week after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the Excelsior Pass program, a voluntary digital vaccination verification system that works with smartphones and can be used by participating residents and venues.

Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center in Albany have already signed on to use Excelsior, which was developed with IBM, and the program is expanding to smaller theaters, venues and event spaces.

Sen. Barry Finegold and Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, the co-chairs of the Legislature's new Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet, and Cybersecurity, wrote to Baker and the White House on Tuesday urging them to work together to develop a framework for "vaccine passes," even as the Biden administration made clear it would not support a single federally-maintained vaccination verification system.

"Vaccines will not completely eradicate COVID-19 for the time being, but vaccine passes will allow us to live with the virus without having to impose costly lockdowns," Finegold and Campbell wrote. "People will feel more comfortable getting on airplanes or going to sports arenas if they know others there have been vaccinated as well."

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