Could COVID-19 vaccine passports leak PHI?

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Most Americans (80 percent) are concerned that getting a COVID-19 vaccine digital passport would jeopardize the security of their personal health information, Fast Company reported July 29. 

Of Americans who have cybersecurity concerns related to vaccine passports, a little more than half said they were concerned about identity theft, according to a recent Harris Poll cited by Fast Company. Further, less than half of survey respondents said they believe businesses and the government are prepared to protect passport apps from cyberattacks. 

The White House in April said it will not support the development of a federal digital vaccine standard, which has left it up to states to choose whether to implement the technology. New York in March became the first state to launch a vaccine passport app, but the majority of states have chosen not to pursue apps or have implemented bans on the technology. 

Researchers from the Brookings Institute said the lack of vaccine passport adoption partly stems from the federal government's insufficient digital privacy legislation. While health information obtained by health systems and other providers is protected under HIPAA, health data inside of apps developed by tech companies is not similarly protected, according to the report. 

"Moreover, it is unclear whether CVS, Walgreens, and other clinics—which are storing vaccination data for millions of Americans—have the same legal responsibility as medical providers to protect [personal health information]," according to the Brookings researchers.

 

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