In recent blog posts, we explored the development of the new COVID-19 vaccines. Now, we have both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which have already started to be distributed with hopes for a safer new year. However, one extremely important factor in the process of vaccine distribution is vaccine tracing. For some people, having to surrender their personal data (which is needed to track vaccines) can be scarier than the virus itself. Here’s what you should know about your data privacy when getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Data is a must for vaccine tracing
Many individuals have raised the question of whether data, such as where a person resides, is even necessary when receiving a vaccine – or rather why it is necessary. Data is needed for any type of vaccine rollout and is essential for a number of reasons. Harvard Business Review emphasized that data tracking in regards to the distribution of vaccines is “crucial to ensure individuals get the recommended number of doses, that guidelines determining who is next in line are followed, and that enough of the U.S. population – at least 60 to 70% – is vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.” Such data was also used during clinical trials for the vaccine including information like side effects that recipients were experiencing. In order for the rollout to be conducted as smoothly and as efficiently as possible, there needs to be some amount of information given to providers when receiving the vaccine, which is to ensure not only the safety of the recipients but that of others as well. Data keeps the vaccine distribution going. Without it, the process would be chaotic and take even longer. Ultimately the more useful data health experts and governments have, the quicker we can distribute the vaccines to the general public and begin to see an end to this pandemic.
Providing information when receiving the vaccine helps others keep safe
According to Forbes, the CDC does ask states to sign a data sharing agreement so that recipient’s personal information regarding the vaccine can generate a “comprehensive picture of COVID-19 vaccine uptake nationally.” As stated previously, when and if you do receive the vaccine, the information that you do give is to protect yourself and others. For example, the information will lock in data such as when you’re due to get your follow-up dose, “especially those who cross state lines.” It also keeps individuals safe by recording health histories and vulnerabilities, and without the data, there’s risk of sometimes serious consequences such as misidentification or fake IDs being used in order for people to receive the vaccine before they’re supposed to. As Bloomberg Businessweek points out, “People left out, people getting too many doses or too few, a region cleared to resume normal activities before it’s been fully immunized… A single person misidentified as vaccinated could visit an unvaccinated area and spark an outbreak.”
Information given will be kept private
It makes sense to be cautious about the information you give out, but unfortunately it can’t be avoided in such a fatal global emergency. That being said, the information that you do give before receiving the vaccine will be kept private from the public and be used for safety purposes only. Administration officials say the data won’t be shared with other federal agencies. For even more reassurance, the data sharing agreements that states sign actually don’t violate HIPPA at all as it’s “for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability.”
Keeping each other safe
The fact that COVID-19 vaccines are successfully being distributed already is a huge milestone in this almost year-long pandemic, and a large part of that is thanks to the data being utilized in vaccine tracking. If you have not received the vaccine yet, chances are that previous vaccine recipients’ data is currently helping to ensure that you’re able to get the vaccine as soon as possible and helping keep your community safe. Likewise, when it’s your turn to receive the vaccine if you choose to do so, you’ll be a part of the data that healthcare officials need to continue a successful rollout and keep the public safe.