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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 21, 2021

No, HIPAA doesn’t prohibit businesses from asking about your vaccination status

If Your Time is short

  • HIPAA rules prohibit health care professionals from sharing people’s protected health information without their permission. 
  • It doesn’t prevent people or businesses from asking you about your vaccination status.

Misinformation is spreading on social media claiming that businesses aren’t allowed to ask customers if they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine because it would violate health privacy laws. 

But that’s wrong, and some posts making these claims have been flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Consumer privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 — better known as HIPAA — are implemented with what’s called the Privacy Rule

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rule established a set of national standards to address how health care providers, insurers and other entities use and share people’s health information. The law is designed to prevent them from disclosing a patient’s private health information without that person’s permission. 

Featured Fact-check

The law doesn’t prohibit businesses from asking customers about their vaccination status. 

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, a lawyer and associate director at the University of Michigan’s Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, told WKYC, an NBC News affiliate in Cleveland, that people often think HIPAA protects them from having to answer questions about their medical information, or prohibits others from asking.

"Neither is true," Spector-Bagdady said. "HIPAA prohibits health professionals, such as your doctor, from sharing your identified health information without your permission in most circumstances. People can always ask about your health information, and you can almost always decline to answer. But not answering health questions might come at a cost — such as not being able to enter your workplace or board a plane."

We rate this post as False.


Our Sources

Instagram post, May 20, 2021

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, visited May 21, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIPAA overview, visited May 21, 2021

USA Today, Fact check: Businesses can legally ask if patrons have been vaccinated. HIPAA does not apply, May 19, 2021

WKYC, No, most businesses won’t violate HIPAA by asking customers if they’ve been vaccinated, May 14, 2021

Miami Herald, Is it a HIPAA violation if businesses request proof of COVID vaccine? What experts say, May 17, 2021

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No, HIPAA doesn’t prohibit businesses from asking about your vaccination status

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