Question: My house’s windows haven’t been cleaned since sometime in 2019. Needless to say, that’s long overdue. I would like to hire someone who’s been vaccinated and willing to wear a mask, primarily to protect my 102-year-old mom (even though she has been vaccinated, I’m being super cautious). One guy was honest and said he hasn’t been vaccinated, and he isn’t keen about wearing a mask while he’s working. Another bidder said he had to check with his HR department because he thinks asking people whether they’ve been vaccinated violates HIPAA. Is that true?
Answer: No. The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, prevents specific health care-related entities from sharing someone’s identifying health information without the person’s knowledge or consent. It doesn’t prevent you from asking prospective window washers whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, and it doesn’t prevent the window washers from answering the question.
We’re getting this type of question a lot lately from people who’d prefer to limit contact with adults who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated, whether window washers, appliance installers, plumbers, repairmen or other strangers who would be in their homes. We’ve also heard from a few unvaccinated-by- choice people who don’t want to disclose their status and have been misled by social media posts falsely asserting that anyone who asks is violating HIPAA. That’s not true.
The Washington Post reported recently that HIPAA is among the most misunderstood laws in the country, assumed to confer much broader medical privacy than it actually does. For one thing, the law covers the sharing of information, not the seeking of it. And it applies only to specific entities, “such as insurance providers, health care clearinghouses, health care providers and their business associates,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.
As far as the unvaccinated window washer who doesn’t like to wear a face mask: You might point him to the CDC website, which explains why people like him have the greatest risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. To learn how the disease spreads and why vaccination protects the vaccinated person and those around him, see cdc.gov/coronavirus/ 2019-ncov.
Q: I noticed that the health care person who checked me in for my vaccination in March misspelled my last name and listed my birth date as 2021, not my year of birth. I’m confident somewhere down the line this may be an issue. Whom do I contact to have a correctly completed CDC vaccination card issued, as I have had both my vaccinations?
A: Anyone who needs to replace their vaccination card should return to the facility where it was issued, according to the state Department of Health. Be sure to bring a valid ID to confirm the spelling of your name and your birth date.
We emailed you this answer, and you immediately followed the advice, returning to the Manoa pharmacy where you were vaccinated. You followed up later with Kokua Line to say that you had obtained a corrected card with no trouble.
You wanted to remind other readers to double- check their vaccination cards before they leave whatever vaccination site they use, to avoid having to correct a problem later. That’s good advice, as is a reminder to treat your vaccination card as a vital health record — take a digital photo of it as a backup record, store the card in a manner that will keep it in good condition, and try hard not to lose it.
Also, remember that anyone claiming a vaccine exemption to avoid the interisland quarantine must bring the actual card to the airport, even after uploading a digital copy to their Safe Travels account. At this point the vaccine exemption applies only to interisland travel, and only for people who were fully vaccinated in Hawaii.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.