The Alabama Department of Public Health has warned health providers against using the state’s immunization registry to check the COVID-19 vaccination status of employees.
“WARNING: It is inappropriate for any employer to use the ImmPRINT Application to verify the Covid-19 vaccination status of any employee,” ADPH added to the state’s ImmPRINT login page. “Please refrain from accessing this database for employee verification purposes. If it is found that an entity is using this database inappropriately, access to the ImmPRINT database will be terminated immediately.”
Ryan Easterling, spokesman for ADPH, in a response to APR on Wednesday said in addition to that warning placed on the login page, an email was sent to all ImmPRINT site administrators.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in a statement Wednesday said his office has received complaints from healthcare employees who believe their COVID-19 immunization status was obtained by their employers through the ImmPRINT registry for the purpose of verifying compliance with the employer’s immunization requirement.
“In several of those cases, a shared employer specifically acknowledged accessing the state immunization database for this purpose. This privacy violation is unlawful,” Marshall said.
Marshall’s office sent a formal demand to the employer to stop using the database to check the COVID-19 vaccination status of employees, the office said in a press release, noting that it’s a state crime to violate the rules or regulations of the Alabama State Board of Health, citing a code that states that anyone who knowingly violates State Board of Health rules and regulations “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $25.00 nor more than $500.00 and, if the violation or failure or refusal to obey or comply with such rule or regulation is a continuing one, each day’s violation will constitute a separate offense.”
Easterling in a message to APR said the ImmPRINT registry is used to record all vaccines administered and evaluates trends by collecting and organizing immunization data throughout Alabama.
“Equipped with this data, the Alabama Department of Public Health can identify vaccination rates, practices, and disparities per county, health specialty, and/or patient populations. All patient information is considered protected health information and is HIPAA compliant,” Easterling said.
“The Attorney General’s Office does not dispute the seriousness of the pandemic in Alabama. This statement merely reflects the Office’s interpretation of relevant state law,” Marshall’s office said in the release.
Businesses in Alabama do have the right to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to guidance issued in June from the by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but they must “make reasonable accommodations” for employees who refuse the vaccine because they’re pregnant, hold various religious beliefs or have a disability.
A business’s right to require workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 doesn’t run afoul of Alabama’s ban on “vaccine passports” which Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law in May, and which prevents banning people’s access to schools and businesses due to immunization status. The state law, which contains no enforcement mechanism, specifically stated that employers are not prohibited from requiring that employees get vaccinated.