Focused On Health Care Law

Would vaccine passports violate HIPAA?

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2021 | HIPAA |

HIPAA was written to protect individuals’ personal health information. Because HIPAA applies to doctors, hospitals, health plans and insurers, dentists, pharmacies, nursing homes, urgent care clinics and other entities paid to provide health care, many in the health care industry wonder if a vaccine passport would violate HIPAA.

Sharing protected data

Let’s say an airline required passengers to show a vaccine passport containing protected health information before boarding a plane. Because the airline isn’t a health care provider, experts say that HIPAA wouldn’t apply to passengers’ voluntary sharing of information about themselves.

Of course, airlines would still have to comply with Michigan privacy laws and applicable laws in other states.

Other nations – including China, Japan and those in the European Union – are working on their own versions of digital vaccine passports, Detroit’s PBS station WTVS reported.

No federal vaccine passport

The Biden administration recently said it won’t pursue the creation of a federal vaccine passport for use in travel or businesses. However, the administration also said it would help states to develop their own.

Critics of vaccine passports say the documents could jeopardize private health data and personal freedoms.

It should be noted that for decades, travelers to certain parts of Africa and South America have carried with them a World Health Organization document colored yellow that shows they have received the yellow fever vaccination. There is still no cure for yellow fever, PBS notes.

Restoring confidence

An aviation industry lobbying group calls for something similar today – a digital travel pass – that could restore confidence in air travel by synchronizing health regulations, testing and lab results.

Former Michigan congressional representative Justin Amash is firmly opposed to implementing vaccine passports.

“It doesn’t get much more dystopian than being required to show your ‘health papers’ wherever you go,” Amash said. “Let’s just focus on getting vaccinated. I think (passports) could be counterproductive and turn into a barrier to vaccination.”