Privacy watchdogs want to know how pharmacies are using COVID-19 vaccine sign-up data

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People receiving COVID-19 vaccines through retail pharmacies often have no choice but to give the pharmacies personal information when booking their appointments, and privacy watchdog groups are seeking more government oversight of how the pharmacies may be using that information to boost their profits, Politico reported. 

Many retail pharmacies require people to provide at least their phone number or email address when booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Walgreens, Sam's Club and Walmart require people to create online accounts before they can book an appointment, according to Politico

Doriann Cain, a partner with the Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath law firm, told Politico that requirements such as online sign-ups to book appointments go beyond what retail pharmacies typically require for other services, such as flu shot appointments. 

Privacy watchdog groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have expressed concern about the pharmacy chains possibly using patient data for marketing, Politico reported. 

A coalition of privacy groups sent a letter April 2 to Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine asking him to investigate how retail pharmacies are using data from vaccine sign-ups. 

The pharmacies have said the data they're collecting is important for efficiently making vaccine appointments and that they are following health privacy rules, Politico reported. 

CVS spokesperson Michael DeAngelis told Politico the company is using consumer data collected from COVID-19 vaccine appointment bookings just for appointment confirmations and reminders, but using that information for marketing is "an option for the future."

Read the full article here.

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