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Firms consider workers’ privacy when sharing vaccine status

Some Missourians may be having a hard time finding dentists and other service providers who are vaccinated because employers have to balance protecting their employees’ health information against their customers’ need for transparency.

The political debate over COVID-19 vaccinations is also making some companies reluctant to share their workers’ vaccination status, said Pauline Kim, a law professor at Washington University.

“It is such a polarized topic that sometimes, in some settings, asking someone might feel kind of fraught, unfortunately,” Kim told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s why the employer can’t reveal that information about somebody else because an employee might very well not want to share their own decision as to whether they got vaccinated or not.”

But 68-year-old Karen Clark has made it a habit to ask everyone she deals with about their vaccination status because she has had two bouts of cancer and her husband has a heart condition, making them both high risk for complications from the coronavirus.

“I say, ‘Are your workers vaccinated? We are high risk.’ That is pretty much it. I usually get a straight answer,” Clark said. “They will often say, ‘Well, we will make sure the one who comes out is vaccinated.’ And I even say, ‘I will check their card.’”

Dentist Guy Deyton, who practices in the Kansas City area, serves as director of the Office of Dental Health within the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. He said he encourages providers to share details of their efforts to curb the spread of the virus and address customer concerns.

“We’ve encouraged them to be good listeners and to be very, very transparent — and to accept that there are going to be people that have some anxiety about getting care or even just going out into the world and interacting at this juncture,” Deyton said.

Dentist Greg Luerding said his patients in Lake Saint Louis frequently ask whether his staff is fully vaccinated. His response is to assure them that they won’t be seen by someone who is not vaccinated, but he avoids sharing the status of all of his employees.

“I just think this is so politicized, and I want to keep it out of that realm,” he said. “If you tell them that everybody is vaccinated, they will be very upset, they’ll say ‘why do you make them do that?’ I don’t. Then they don’t believe me, or the opposite. So, I just kind of steer clear of that.”

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