HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Health Thursday announced a plan to text 250,000 Pennsylvanians who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but did not yet receive the second dose, to encourage them to become fully vaccinated as the Delta variant continues to spread in Pennsylvania.
However, the announcement raises serious privacy concerns relative to whether the Department of Health has the authority to use personal information in this capacity, whether the information has been provided from the Department of Health to third party providers to facilitate the text messaging, how that contract was entered into, and what precautions are being taken to protect the information of Pennsylvanians.
Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman made the following statement:
“Millions of Pennsylvanians have admirably stepped up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but no Pennsylvanian—even those partially vaccinated—gave permission to the Wolf administration to send them a text message or provide their private health and personally identifiable information to a third party vendor or anyone else.
“Given this administration’s shoddy track record of protecting Pennsylvanians’ private health and personally identifiable information, questions remain about how this information is being stored, who is facilitating this text messaging program, and what assurances have been provided that this information is being kept secure.
“Ultimately, Pennsylvanians who have received this vaccine either out of a sense of duty or to protect themselves and loved ones deserved better notice that their private health and personally identifiable information will be used by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to track their vaccination status, potentially contact them at home, and be provided to third parties.
“While everyone is committed to stopping the spread of this virus and associated variants, including through a robust vaccine deployment, this is nothing short of bait and switch by the Department of Health that does nothing to further confidence in the vaccine distribution process or the security of private information given to providers or government entities.”
Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus