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Kansas Won’t Provide Personal Data About Vaccine Recipients

El Alvi
Flickr Creative Commons

TOPEKA — Kansas does not plan to send personal information to the federal government about residents who receive coronavirus vaccines, though it has signed a data-use agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Lee Norman, the top administrator at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said this week that the state was “very reluctant” to share personal information. Department spokeswoman Ashley Jones-Wisner said Thursday in a text to The Associated Press that the agency signed a data-use agreement with the CDC “a while ago” but “won’t be providing any identifying information.”

The CDC’s standard agreement calls collection of data about vaccine recipients “critical ” to the pandemic response and says data will help determine how vaccines are distributed, monitor their safety and effectiveness and identify places that are under-vaccinated. A list of data to be collected includes a person’s name, address and birthdate.

Norman said the state is wary of sending the federal government such personal information because it believes doing so will discourage people from getting vaccinated. Kansas in June enacted a law that says people exposed to the coronavirus don’t have to cooperate with health officials tracing the contacts of infected people. Legislators and Attorney General Derek Schmidt saw it as protecting people’s privacy, but health officials have reported that it has hindered contact tracing.

“Some people are a little paranoid about that, so we’re not planning to share that kind of information with the federal government,” Norman told reporters during a Statehouse news conference Wednesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide within days whether to grant emergency authorization for a two-dose vaccine made by Pfizer. If it does, Kansas expects to receive the first dose for 23,750 people by the end of next week, and the state plans to first vaccinate health care workers, including nursing home workers, and nursing home residents. It’s likely to be months before a vaccine is available for everyone.

Already, a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Roughly another quarter say they won’t.

“The data-use agreement, we’re very uneasy with and this time don’t have plans to submit that personal, identifying information,” Norman told reporters Wednesday. “We’re waiting for more clarity on how the data information will be used.”

A CDC spokeswoman did not immediately respond Thursday to an email seeking comment. But Jones-Wisner said the state health department believes Kansas’ position is acceptable to the federal agency.

One CDC document lists a recipient’s birthdate as “required” and names and addresses as “required if known” under the agreement. But the agreement itself says it “does not create an obligation or commitment to transfer data,” and it promises that the federal government will maintain the confidentiality of personal information about vaccine recipients.

Kansas reported Friday that it has had more than185,000 probable and confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, along with more than 5,800 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 2,072 deaths.

Meanwhile, in northeast Kansas, the Shawnee County Commission voted Thursday to turn the exhibition hall at Topeka’s largest arena and convention center into a space that can be used for giving vaccines and even treating COVID-19 patients, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Commissioner Kevin Cook said it is possible for the Stormont Vail Events Center to care for overflow COVID-19 patients, but the county’s contract with it is geared more toward preparing the location to administer vaccinations.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.