Trump administration efforts to track COVID-19 vaccinations raise privacy concerns

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – As the U.S. gears up to vaccinate its first patients against the coronavirus, the Trump administration wants to know their personal information, including names, birthdays, ethnicities and addresses.

But Health Secretary Alex Azar said states do not have to submit other data.

“We don’t require that personally protected information be provided, driver’s license, passports, etc.,” Azar said. “It’s just about patient safety.”

The federal vaccine registry will allow the government to track adverse reactions to the shots, assess their effectiveness among different groups and Azar said most importantly, ensure people who move across state lines receive the correct follow-up doses about three weeks later.

“We just need to make sure the same person gets the same brand of vaccine,” he said. “That’s all it’s about. It’s not for any other purpose.”

But some states aren’t so sure. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, warns collecting personal data could discourage undocumented people from getting vaccinated.

Other states like Texas have laws prohibiting the sharing of any identifiable health information.

“We have worked with the administration,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, R-TX. “They understand.”

However, Abbott said the state will have vaccine information it can share, similar to its testing data released on a daily basis.

“The total number of people who have been administered a COVID-19 test, the total number of people testing positive, the total number of people hospitalized,” he said.

So it’s not clear how many states will submit the requested personal information. While the debate continues over patient privacy versus public protection, the first American could get the vaccine as early as this weekend.

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