Is Asking for Proof of Vaccination a HIPAA Violation?

Is Asking for Proof of Vaccination a HIPAA Violation?


The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals' medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.

The latest discussions regarding whether proof of vaccination will be required and if a person is protected under the HIPAA privacy Rule. HIPAA is used to protect sensitive medical information, but only applies to how physicians, hospitals and health insurers share a patient's information with third-party entities.

As the travel bands are being lifted, the question is, do vaccine passports violate HIPAA or any other law?

The short answer is no. A vaccine card would qualify as protected health information, but an airline is not a healthcare provider. HIPAA also does not protect medical information that a patient shares about themselves. An airline still must follow state privacy and identity theft policies.

Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School, specializes in the intersection of bioethics, the law and health law. He said HIPAA is one of the most commonly misunderstood laws. 

"It doesn't seem that there's going to be a HIPAA violation and the answer is pretty straightforward because HIPAA requires a covered entity," Cohen said. "That's one of the requirements for the statute. People are fixating on HIPAA, but really what they're concerned about is this question about should we be allowed to require people to be vaccinated, what does that mean to move in society and how much pressure towards vaccination is appropriate," he added.

While vaccine passports may not violate HIPAA, Cohen said they could face other legal hurdles.
"HIPAA is not all there is out there, and there are other statutes that might be brought to bear on the question of the legality of vaccine passports," Cohen said. For example, he thinks it will be vital to understand how the Americans with Disabilities Act would interact with the digital vaccine passports.
There are so many questions revolving around the dos and don’ts of what is required without crossing the line. To learn more about how your employer's rights to request verification of vaccination see the link included.

Can I Ask My Employees If They Have Been Vaccinated?