Gov. Andrew Cuomo is worried the federal government won't safeguard personal information when distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.

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On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to President Trump, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking for clarity on why the federal administration is requiring states to provide identification numbers for anyone who wishes to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Governor also asked the federal administration to affirmatively state that no personal identifiable information will be used for non-public health-related purposes or provided to any non-public health agency such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A copy of the letter is below:

President Trump, Dr. Redfield and Secretary Azar:

Late last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked all states to sign a Data Use Agreement that requires state health departments to share with the federal government personal information for every person who receives a COVID-19 vaccine, including name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, race and sex, as well as an identification number that is unique to each vaccination recipient. "Identification number" generally refers to a social security number, driver license number, or passport number.

While I understand data will play an integral role in the successful administration of a COVID-19 vaccine - including scheduling appointments, providing second dose reminders and ensuring reimbursements are accurate - in order to ensure confidence in the program, several concerns must be addressed.

First, the Federal Government must tell the States exactly why this data is necessary, what it will be used for, and how it will be safeguarded.

Second, the Data Use Agreement says this information will be used by the CDC, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "and other federal partners." My concern is that this information, without proper safeguards, could be used by non-health related agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement in furtherance of this administration's anti-immigrant policies and its relentless pursuit of undocumented people.

In light of this and the federal administration's past attempts to extort the State of New York through the Trusted Traveler Program fiasco, New York needs the federal government to affirm that all personal information will be safeguarded to the standard used for all other health data, per HIPPA, and that no personal information collected as part of the vaccination effort will be used for any profit-making or more pernicious purpose, nor will it be left unguarded and subject to diversion or cyberattack.

Additionally, we need the federal government to affirmatively state that this information will not be shared with any non-public health agency such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Providing these reassurances to everyone receiving the vaccine will be critical to the effective administration of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter.

Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of the State of New York
Chair of the National Governors Association

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