As U.S. health officials try to get COVID-19 vaccines to people faster, it is already time for some people to get vaccinated.
So who follows up to make sure you get the correct and on time second dose? And who can see this information?
This is one of the many logistical challenges that health officials have solved to bring the country’s biggest vaccination campaign to fruition. The first COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States require two doses, weeks apart. Other vaccines in development might not require two doses, but record keeping for these would work the same.
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Here is an overview of how vaccinations are tracked.
What do I need for my first shot?
Once the vaccines become widely available in the coming months, the pharmacy, health clinic or doctor’s office where you get your vaccine will ask you for basic information, such as your name, date of birth, and gender.
You might also be asked to provide other information, such as your race and any health conditions that could put you at a higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19. But exactly what you are asked for will vary depending on your destination.
The injections are free, but you will likely be asked for your insurance information if you have it.
Will I receive a reminder for the second photo?
You will receive a vaccination record indicating when and where you had your first vaccine, and what type it was. Pharmacies, clinics, and doctor’s offices are also likely to send reminders, including text, email, or phone.
The timing doesn’t have to be exact. the Pfizer doses are supposed to be three weeks apart and Moderna doses four weeks apart. But the CDC notes that the doses given within four days of these steps are fine.
Will there be a record of my vaccination?
Providers should have a record of your immunization in their systems. They will also enter the information into existing state or local immunization registers, which are used to record childhood and other immunizations. This will include details such as the vaccine you received and when.
So if you go to a drugstore in another part of town for your second photo, they should be able to research the details of your first one.
To give health officials a national picture of immunization efforts, these local registries will also provide information to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is shared with the CDC?
It was a sticking point.
The CDC wanted information, including the names, dates of birth and sex of those vaccinated from local health authorities.
But many states pushed back, citing privacy concerns, and were still in the process of finalizing their data-sharing agreements with the CDC in the last few weeks before the release of the first vaccine shipments.
Jon Reid, director of the vaccine registry in Utah, said he expected most states to send data with personal information removed. But exactly what is shared may vary.
“We have our own state laws that we must comply with,” said Kevin Klein, director of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Philadelphia said it was happy to report ages, for example, but not dates of birth or names.
“We will send them whatever we deem appropriate,” said Aras Islam, head of the city’s vaccine registry. But he said he expects to hear from the CDC on the matter as vaccinations expand.
The CDC also wanted information on people’s race and ethnicity. But some providers are not configured to collect this information and this information is not necessary, said Mitchel Rothholz of the American Pharmacists Association.
Philadelphia says it asks providers to enter data on race and ethnicity if they can, and shares it with the CDC. The city says about 80% of cases so far include this information and the percentage is expected to increase.
Why does the CDC want my immunization information?
Federal officials say they need data to track nationwide immunization efforts and to identify regions or groups that may need more shipments.
To do so, the CDC says it will feed the data without identifying the details into a program called Tiberius, which is created by Palantir and is also used to track COVID-19 hospitalizations under a different name. It is not yet clear what information the program will be able to offer, given the changes to their data use agreements.
“There will be some variability in the data, and we are working on that analysis right now,” Col. RJ Mikesh, the federal government’s chief technology officer for COVID-19 vaccine development, previously said.
HHS officials have not detailed what information they plan to release and when.
How will the data be protected?
State and city immunization information will be stored in a CDC data repository called the COVID-19 clearinghouse, which will “encrypt and store” the information, according to a data agreement sent to the states.
The agreement states that the CDC will “take all reasonable steps to secure” the data, and that the agency will not be able to access personally identifiable information without permission from local courts. Federal health officials said the data could also be useful if people were in another part of the country for the second shot.
But without further details on how the data could be secured, Islam in Philadelphia said the city has chosen to share information without any identifying information.
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