Vaccine sign-up info to be protected in Democratic coronavirus health privacy bill

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Personal information collected during the coronavirus vaccine sign-up process would be protected by health privacy legislation introduced Thursday by Democrats seeking to allay fears of data misuse and encourage vaccinations.

The bicameral Public Health Emergency Privacy Act, first introduced last year, is intended to safeguard people’s privacy and health data by restricting the information the government collects and stores through activities such as contact tracing, virus testing, and patient care. Information collected by the government during the vaccine sign-up process would now also be protected by the legislation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, introduced the bill with Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Mark Warner of Virginia. They were joined by Democratic House Reps. Anna Eshoo of California and Suzan DelBene of Washington.

“Health data is among the most sensitive data imaginable, and even before this public health emergency, there has been increasing bipartisan concern with gaps in our nation’s health privacy laws,” a group of Democratic senators stated in a letter supporting the bill last summer.

“While a comprehensive update of health privacy protections is unrealistic at this time, targeted reforms to protect health data, particularly with clear evidence that a lack of privacy protections has inhibited public participation in screening activities, is both appropriate and necessary,” they added.

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