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COVID-19: HIPAA Guidance; Vaccinating Pregnant People

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights issued guidance to clarify when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to requests for information about a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status.

Notably, the agency clarifies that the HIPAA privacy rule does not apply to employers or employment records, only to HIPAA covered entities, including health plans, health care clearinghouses, health care providers that conduct standard electronic transactions, and, sometimes, their business associates. HIPAA does not regulate the ability of covered entities and their business associates to request information from patients or visitors, only how and when covered entities and business associates may use and disclose protected health information.

CDC Urges Vaccination for Pregnant People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sept. 29 issued a health alert urging people who are pregnant, were recently pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The agency reported in August 2021 the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in pregnant people in a single month of the pandemic. Data show approximately 97 percent of pregnant people who were hospitalized in 2021 and who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were unvaccinated.

Pregnant and recently pregnant people are at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19; pregnant people also face an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including preterm birth, admission to a neonatal intensive care unit, and stillbirth. The guidance includes recommendations for health care providers to promote vaccination of these patients.

COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

CDC finds no unexplained patterns of adverse reactions among people who received a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Oct. 1 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Among 12,591 participants who completed health check-ins with the V-safe voluntary surveillance system, 79.4 percent reported local reactions at the injection site and 74.1 percent reported systemic reactions after receiving their third dose. Comparatively, 77.6 percent reported local reactions and 76.5 percent reported systemic reactions after receiving a second dose.

The Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet Oct. 14 and 15 to discuss emergency use authorization of booster shots for the Moderna and Janssen vaccines for people ages 18 and older. The committee also will meet Oct. 26 to discuss emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as five.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Emily Schweich is a senior communications associate for America's Essential Hospitals.

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