COLUMN: Posting a vaccine card online poses a risk for identity theft and scams

Vaccine cards hold sensitive information that scammers and identity thieves can use.

Cela is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about daily life for The Maneater.

It’s time to take a page out of Dwight Shrute’s book and acknowledge the severity of identity theft. The barrage of COVID-19 vaccination cards posted to social media does encourage others to get the vaccine but may make individuals vulnerable to identity theft or scammers.

Vaccine cards hold sensitive information which may help identity thieves piece together an identity to steal.

According to an article in Healthline, posting a full name likely isn’t risky, but the date of birth and location of the vaccine appointment is problematic. Names and birthdays are often used in passwords. Scammers are also able to send fake emails to individuals encouraging them to sign up for their second dose and steal their information.

Posting a clear visual of the vaccine card also grants a scammer or identity thief the opportunity to create fake vaccine cards, which could delay or prevent a second dose. The paper vaccine cards can easily become damaged or misplaced, opening the window for someone to steal a vaccine appointment and second dose.

In making sensitive personal information public, the individual then loses their HIPAA protection, according to legal experts. The HIPAA privacy rule protects an individual’s health information from being disclosed without their knowledge and consent.

To safely post a vaccine card, block out the name, birth date, patient number and vaccination location. At that point, why not opt for a simple vaccine selfie or photo of a celebratory “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” sticker? It’ll be much easier and pose no risk for identity or information theft.

In addition to posing a risk for identity theft, it’s important to recognize the privilege associated with being able to get the vaccine and how some have been able to receive the vaccine before they became truly eligible in their state.

Scientists around the world fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccines because society wasn’t able to properly quarantine, socially distance and wear personal protective equipment to slow the spread of the virus on its own. When the COVID-19 vaccines came out, first doses went to healthcare personnel, frontline essential workers and the elderly.

As states enter different stages of the vaccine rollout, those who are granted next in line correlates to Privilege with a capitalism P.

Entertainment takes precedence over the everyday people, as movies and television shows resume filming and award ceremonies take place, but restaurants and small businesses face sharp regulations.

Based on how COVID-19 tests operated, with private sites and tests providing quick service and public sites resulting in long car lines and delayed results, the vaccine rollout may reflect the same problems.

Although the vaccine is free for all, there are issues with access to vaccine sign-ups and transportation to vaccination locations. There are vaccine deserts where the eligible people — often poor people and people of color — find difficulty getting the vaccine due to these hurdles. There are also individuals who signed up when they weren’t yet eligible, feigning an underlying condition or using their influence and money.

COVID-19 hit Black, Hispanic and Native American people the hardest, with Black people dying at 1.9 times, Hispanic people dying at 2.3 times and American Indian or Alaska Natives dying at 2.4 times the rate of white people. According to an Associated Press article, “In Chicago, Black people make up 30% of the population but only 15% of those vaccinated.”

These disproportionate numbers represent a lack of resources for people regarding COVID-19. However, it’s also important to acknowledge the rightfully placed mistrust many Black people have in the medical care system, such as malpractice, racism and implicit bias at the hands of medical practitioners.

It’s still incredibly important to get vaccinated so that the population can head toward herd immunity, which requires at least 70% of the population to be immune in order for operations and life to return as they were pre-pandemic. The future of vaccine cards remains unknown, as they may be used as tickets for future events with large groups or as passports to travel to other countries.

Get the vax and save your ass, but also remember to continue to social distance and wear masks. Only the vaccine cards will tell what the future holds.

In pursuit of racial and social equity, The Maneater encourages its readers to donate to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization dedicated to combatting and responding to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Donate at:https://donate.givedirect.org/?cid=1471

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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