EPIC, Coalition Urge States to Investigate Pharmacies Over Handling of Vaccine Recipients’ Personal Data

April 2, 2021

EPIC and a coalition of civil society groups urged officials in five states today to investigate major pharmacy chains over their collection and use of personal data from patients receiving COVID-19 vaccines. The federal government has partnered with retail pharmacies to expand vaccine distribution, including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Kroger. But as the coalition letter explains, some pharmacies "are requiring patients seeking access to the vaccine to register through their existing customer portals, which in turn exposes patients to broad personal data collection and marketing." According to a recent report, CVS executives "plan to stay in touch with vaccine recipients beyond receiving their second shot and use information gleaned in the process to better market to them." The coalition urged state consumer protection authorities in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia to conduct investigations, to prohibit the use of vaccine registrant data for commercial purposes, and to require pharmacies to separate vaccine registrant information from their general customer data. "Patients should not have to trade unrestricted use of their sensitive personal information for a life-saving vaccine," the letter argues. "We believe these practices are unfair and deceptive and should be halted immediately." The coalition called on state officials "to remove barriers to access the vaccine and promote an equitable vaccine distribution process by protecting the personal data of vaccine recipients."

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