Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday warned healthcare providers to cease any unlawful use of the state immunization registry.
The data contained in this registry is supposed to be confidential with few permitted uses.
“The Attorney General’s 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,” said Marshall. “In several of those cases, a shared employer specifically acknowledged accessing the state immunization database for this purpose. This privacy violation is unlawful.”
The Attorney General’s Office sent a formal demand to that employer, calling on the responsible parties to cease and desist this unlawful activity. The Alabama Department of Public Health has also warned that it is inappropriate for any employer to use the ImmPRINT system to verify the COVID-19 vaccination status of an employee and that using the immunization registry in this manner will result in immediate termination of database access.
Marshall warned that all other healthcare entities should heed this warning and immediately cease this practice. Failure to do so may result in criminal prosecution. Per Ala. Code §22-2-14, it is a crime to violate the rules or regulations of the Alabama State Board of Health. 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.
Ascension Health and UAB have ordered that all of their staff be vaccinated by the end of October as a condition of continuing employment.
There are options for nurses and staff with religious or health reasons for not getting the vaccine, but the paperwork for filing for the exemptions includes a clause that says if the exemption is not granted that the resulting termination would be a voluntary resignation rather than a firing. Some are hesitant to sign any form that may lessen their rights in a possible future wrongful termination lawsuit.
A number of the health exemptions from the vaccination have been granted to this point, APR confirmed.
The state was already in a massive shortage of both doctors and skilled nurses, prior to the COVID-19 epidemic. Early retirements and persons leaving the profession for less stressful occupations due to the COVID-19 global pandemic has only worsened staff shortages at major hospitals. Many fear that if hospital administrators try to enforce their heavy-handed vaccine mandates that staffing shortages could become even more acute.
President Joe Biden has issued a nationwide order commanding that all nursing home staff be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Mark Parkinson, the CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, a nursing home lobby, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra warning that policy could have a negative impact on the workforce – a workforce that is 38 percent unvaccinated.
“If a significant portion of the approximately 38 percent of unvaccinated nursing home staff leave, the net impact will be worse care for the residents,” Parkinson wrote. “While the loss of just half of the unvaccinated staff would be devastating to care, the loss of even one or two staff in a nursing home impacts care on certain shifts and units.”
The AHCA is pressing the administration to broaden the vaccine requirement to all workers in Medicare and Medicaid-certified health facilities.
“This is the only way to prevent nursing facility employees from leaving to work in other settings such as hospitals or home health,” Parkinson wrote.
To this point, the Biden administration has not pressed the issue further, acutely aware that an aging America is increasingly dependent on its healthcare workers and never more than now.
Alabama Eagle Forum and other conservative groups, who are championing the rights of nurses and healthcare workers, are urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to issue an executive order ordering all employers to cease demanding personal health data from their employers.
UAB, as a state institution, has drawn fire for its alleged misuse of the state vaccination registry for its own purposes. SB267 was passed by the legislature to ban vaccine passports. Ascension Health and UAB have ignored SB267 and claimed that they are exempt from the statute.
Marshall is running for re-election.
The Republican primary is May 24, 2022.