Minnesota refuses CDC request for names and addresses of vaccine recipients

Care home staff receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at Bradley Manor residential care home in Belfast. (Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images) ((Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Minnesota is refusing a Trump administration request for names and addresses of coronavirus vaccine recipients, instead planning to send a more limited picture of who's getting vaccinated.

Minnesota will send the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the dates of birth and county of residence data for vaccine recipients, while declining to give personally identifying information the CDC wants to build a federal registry. Health officials say providing personal information would violate the state's data practices laws.

"It’s not that we don’t want the federal government to know what we’re doing, it’s that we have very clear data privacy laws in Minnesota and we need to follow them," Kris Ehresmann, the state's infectious disease director, said this week. "So we worked out a way to share information that is useful to the feds without divulging personally identifying information." 

Minnesota already collects from health care providers the names, dates of birth, genders and contact information for people who get any vaccine. That information gets stored in a tracking system called the Minnesota Immunization Information Collection.

The immunization tracking system allows providers to send reminder notices about follow-up appointments, something health officials say is important for the coronavirus vaccine, which requires two doses weeks apart.

Ehresmann said the state would not call people to remind them about the second dose because it simply doesn't have the staff. Health care providers may do so.

At least one other state, New York, has also said it will not send personally identifying information that the CDC wants.

Minnesota health officials say they expect the highest-priority health care workers and nursing home residents to start getting vaccinated on the week of Dec. 21. It will be months before the general public is eligible.

Vaccine recipients will get proof-of-vaccination cards

It's possible that employers may require their workers to show a proof of vaccination before returning to the workplace next year. Entertainment venues and airlines could do the same before allowing customers to enter.

Minnesotans who get vaccinated will get a card as proof. Health officials are encouraging people to snap a photo in case it gets lost.

"You won’t get like a purple armband that you wear so everyone can see that you’ve been vaccinated or not vaccinated," Ehresmann said. "There's a little bit more privacy than that."

She declined to say whether the business community or entertainment venues were pressuring the state to provide the cards.

Asked whether the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce had advocated for the cards, a  spokeswoman, Anne Yoder, said "we’re still working to understand how the state and federal distribution plans will impact employers and employees. We will continue to engage with public health officials as the distribution process and plans move forward."