While U.S. health officials are trying to get COVID-19 vaccines to humans more quickly, for some people it’s already time to get their second shot.
So who keeps track of making sure you get the right second dose, and on time? And who can see that information?
It’s one of the many logistical problems health officials have solved to carry out the country’s largest vaccination campaign. The first COVID-19 vaccines available in the US require two doses weeks apart. Other vaccines in the pipeline may not need two doses, but keeping track of those vaccines would work the same way.
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Here’s a look at how vaccinations are tracked.
What do I need for my first admission?
Once vaccines become widely available in the coming months, the pharmacy, health clinic or doctor’s office where you will receive your injection will ask for basic information, such as your name, date of birth, and gender.
You may also be asked for other information, such as your breed and any health conditions that put you at higher risk for a serious case of COVID-19. But what exactly you will be asked depends on where you are going.
The withdrawals are free, but you will likely be asked for your insurance information if you have one.
Will I get a reminder for the second shot?
You will be given a vaccination card stating when and where you received your first injection and what type it was. Pharmacies, clinics and doctor’s offices are also likely to send reminders, including via text message, email, or phone.
The timing does not have to be exact. The Pfizer doses should be three weeks, and the Moderna doses four weeks. But the CDC notes that doses given within four days of those milestones are fine.
Will my vaccination be registered?
Providers must have a record of your vaccination in their systems. They will also feed the information into existing national or local vaccination registries, which are used to register childhood and other vaccinations. That includes details such as which vaccine you received and when.
So if you go to a pharmacy in another part of town for your second admission, they should be able to look up the details of your first admission.
To give health officials a national picture of vaccination efforts, those local registries will also provide information to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is shared with the CDC?
That has been a sticking point.
The CDC wanted information, including names, dates of birth, and gender of people vaccinated, from local health officials.
But many states pushed back, citing privacy concerns, and were still exchanging data with the CDC in the last few weeks before the first vaccine shipments took off.
Jon Reid, manager of the vaccine registry in Utah, said he expected most states to send data with deleted personal information. But what exactly is shared can vary.
“We have our own state laws that we must comply with,” said Kevin Klein, director of Colorado homeland security and disaster relief.
Philadelphia said it agreed to include ages, for example, but not dates of birth or names.
“We are going to send them what we think is appropriate,” said Aras Islam, manager of the city’s vaccine registry. But he said he expects to hear back from the CDC on the matter as vaccinations increase.
The CDC also wanted information about people’s race and ethnicity. But some providers aren’t set up to collect that information, and the information isn’t required, said Mitchel Rothholz of the American Pharmacists Association.
Philadelphia says it is asking providers to enter race and ethnicity data if they can, and share it with the CDC. The city says that so far about 80% of cases contain that information and the rate is expected to increase.
Why does the CDC want my vaccination records?
Federal officials say they need data to monitor vaccination efforts at the national level and to identify regions or groups that may need more payloads.
To do that, the CDC says it will enter data without identifying details in a program called Tiberius, which was created by Palantir and is also used to track COVID-19 hospital admissions under a different name. It’s not yet clear what insights the program can provide given the changes to their data usage agreements.
“There will be some variability in the data, and we are currently working on that analysis,” said Colonel R.J. Mikesh, the federal government’s technology leader for the development of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine, said earlier.
HHS officials do not detail what information they plan to disclose and when.
How are data protected?
Vaccination data from states and cities goes to a CDC repository called COVID-19 Clearinghouse, which will “encrypt and store” the information, according to a data agreement sent to the states.
The agreement says the CDC will “take all reasonable steps to keep the data secure” and that the agency would not have access to personally identifiable information without the consent of local jurisdictions. Federal health officials have said the data could also be helpful if people happen to be in another part of the country for the second shot.
But without going into more detail on how to secure data, Islam in Philadelphia said the city chose to share information without identifying information.
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