(NEXSTAR) – From politicians to professional athletes, people in the media spotlight have diverted questions about their COVID-19 vaccine status by – falsely – accusing reporters of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was asked at a press conference at training camp Thursday whether or not he was vaccinated, the NFL star said, “I don’t necessarily think that’s exactly important. I think that’s HIPAA. “
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During a July 20th press conference by MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Congresswoman responded to a question about her vaccination status by saying, “Your first question is about a violation of my HIPAA rights,” and added imprecisely, “Look, with HIPAA Having rights, we don’t have to disclose our medical records, and that includes our vaccination records. “
Social media users and political candidates have also spread false claims that the Biden government’s door-to-door vaccination campaign violates federal health protection law.
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“How about the government staying out of our business !?” Texas Republican Congressional candidate Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez wrote in a Facebook post. “What has ever happened to private health decisions? It seems like it would be a HIPPA violation to give these door knockers our vaccination status. ”
Another Facebook user wrote, “Coming to my door for personal medical information is a violation of HIPAA laws and my constitutional rights.”
How does HIPAA work?
HIPAA was enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1996 when the medical records were computerized. It was created to simplify health insurance management and prevent unauthorized access to people’s medical histories.
In fact, HIPAA doesn’t stop anyone from asking another person about their health, according to Alan Meisel, law professor and bioethics expert at the University of Pittsburgh.
What is the risk of avoiding the vaccine?
“It prohibits certain health care institutions from disclosing certain health information about patients,” Meisel told the AP in an email.
If someone comes to your door to encourage you to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there is no obligation on you to tell them if you have been vaccinated, said Kayte Spector-Bagdady, attorney and deputy director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine from the University of Michigan Medical School.
“HIPAA does not apply to public health volunteers and it does not apply to information you provide,” Spector-Baghdady said in an email to the AP. “If you feel uncomfortable, just don’t open the door – or do it and just get some information for free!”
A “pandemic of the unvaccinated”
Politicians from both sides of the spectrum are speaking out in hopes of tackling misinformation and convincing the unvaccinated to protect themselves – and others – from the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
“People should have common sense,” said Kay Ivey, Republican governor of Alabama, during an event in Birmingham on Thursday. “But it is time to blame the unvaccinated, not the vaccinated. It is the unvaccinated people who let us down. “
Alabama and Mississippi lag behind the rest of the nation with roughly 34 percent of the fully vaccinated population.
“Let’s make this topic crystal clear. And media, I want you to start reporting the facts. The new cases of COVID are due to unvaccinated people, ”said Governor Ivey. “Almost 100% of new hospital admissions are made to unvaccinated people. And the deaths certainly occur in the unvaccinated people. These people choose to live a horrific, self-inflicted lifestyle. “
CDC statistics show that more than 99% of people who die from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Of the people hospitalized for the virus, 97% have not received the vaccination.
“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said last Friday.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday that three states – Florida, Texas and Missouri – accounted for 40 percent of the new cases last week.
“For the second week in a row, one in five cases occurs in Florida alone. And within the communities, these cases occur mainly among unvaccinated people, ”said Zients.
On Thursday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky called the Delta variant “one of the most contagious respiratory viruses that we know and that I have seen in my 20-year career.