Hipaa Doesn’t Apply, but My Vaccine Status is Still Private

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The other day I was walking my dog and ran into a neighbor along the way. We maintained safe distance and after the initial how are yous? the conversation quickly turned to the hot topic at hand: the Covid vaccine.

“I got my first dose this week! Have you gotten yours?” I immediately froze up. It’s not even readily available to the entire population yet. Not to mention, isn’t that private information? Though HIPAA only relates to healthcare providers and their duty to protect sensitive patient health information, as long as I can remember it has been common social practice to not discuss sensitive healthcare information.

And this is not the first time this question has come up. From acquaintances asking casually to everyone who gets the shot posting their covid vaccination record card like it’s public information, sharing private medical data has become commonplace.

It’s obvious why this info has become so charged and why almost all conversations many of us have these days shift to vaccine talk. After a year of a lifestyle none of us could ever have imagined living, a death toll that climbed steadily for over a year, and the potential of personally contracting a deadly illness, stress levels have been through the roof for most of the population. There is finally a solution, and I agree – that calls for celebration! But not at the expense of privacy or at the risk of anyone being coerced into sharing private medical information.

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that while we wouldn’t casually ask even the closest to us their weight or salary, it’s suddenly okay to request personal medical information. For those of you who wish to offer up those details freely, that’s your choice, but it’s entirely different to expect someone else to do the same.

To be completely frank I’ve not yet decided if I’ll receive the vaccine right away. I have underlying medical conditions that make the decision weightier. While the vaccine has been proven to be safe for the majority of the population, there is still limited safety data regarding adverse effects for some underlying medical conditions.

Either way, that decision is between me and my doctor.

When there is risk there needs to be choice, and no one deserves to be vilified because they are making what they feel is the best choice for them and their family.

This is true for any personal decisions made in the best interest of your family. As long as they are sheltered, safe, and well taken care of, personal family decisions are your business, which, in my mind, certainly includes the medical decisions you make for yourself and your family.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I understand that it is weird to have these conversations with friends and family. As you said it’s not a HIPAA violation because no medical professionals are sharing with your friends and family or businesses that you were vaccinated or not. Since the beginning of the pandemic I have been having uncomfortable conversations with all of my friends and family. Before deciding to see anyone I had a list of questions that I would ask them and share my answers (including- do you wear masks out, will you wear masks when you see us, how many people have you seen in the past 2 weeks and what are they doing/seeing masking…ect) I have friends that asked the same of me. This level of transparency is uncomfortable and bizarre but it helps me make decisions for my family. Now the vaccine will become a question when making decisions for our family interactions. It’s an uncomfortable question that I am willing to ask and answer so that I can continue to protect my children who cannot be vaccinated yet.
    I understand your hesitation, it’s weird and uncomfortable. I expect to meet some frustration when I ask friends and family before planning time together, and I am prepared to make the difficult decision to interact differently with unvaccinated people/people keeping their status private. By differently I mean: visits with mask/outdoors/in small groups. We are getting more data weekly, so that is my stance today.
    I also want to acknowledge your vaccine hesitancy with your health conditions, your concerns are valid. That is why it is important for people who can to get the vaccine, get the vaccine to protect people that are in a unknown medical place or can’t get the vaccine. People that can’t get the vaccine can get a rapid test. That would be another great way to maintain transparency with friends and family.

  2. People will be asking if you have got the vaccine. That’s part of this pandemic life that we have right now. I want to suggest coming up with a scripted response for those people asking you. Maybe something like “That’s not information I’m comfortable sharing. I am willing to get together outside/with masks/distanced and/or get tested before we get together. Would you be comfortable getting together if I do those things?”

  3. None of us should feel comfortable even asking. It is not our business. Point blank. Someone elses choice for their family is only relevent to their family.
    Anyone who feels they are better protected due to someone elses choices, has a false sense of security, and is hinging their feeling of “safety” in the wrong places.

  4. Thank you for sharing this! I 100% agree, no one should be vilified or coerced into making decisions about their own healthcare❤️ Thank you for sharing, when I’m sure you will get some flack for it. There are many others who agree with you, but maybe they just don’t feel like being berated for sharing ❤️

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