CHICAGO – As Illinois reopens and people catch up on long-postponed checkups and health care, some patients have a new question for their doctors: Are you vaccinated?
Many providers say they’re happy to share that information with patients, in hopes of assuaging their fears about getting the shots. But it’s not always easy information for patients to get ahead of appointments if they’re worried about being up-close and personal with unvaccinated doctors, nurses, dentists or optometrists.
While most employers in the health care industry are not requiring vaccinations, as of early March, about 71% of frontline health care workers who responded to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post said they were vaccinated or planning to get the shot.
That percentage has likely increased as vaccines have become plentiful and hesitancy about them has waned, said Ashley Kirzinger, associate director for public opinion and survey research at Kaiser. Still, she said, there’s a segment of both health care workers and the general population who remain opposed to getting the vaccines.
The fact that many people remain unvaccinated has some people asking everyone in their lives — including health care providers — if they’ve gotten shots.
“After 16 months of pandemic, it makes sense that people ... are concerned about their safety and who they’re coming into contact with,” Kirzinger said. “We’re getting used to asking our friends and family members and each other if they’re vaccinated, so it makes sense that individuals would also be asking that of their health care providers.”
Not all health systems, however, may be willing or able to reveal individual health care workers’ vaccination statuses.
Sharon Butler, a vaccinated senior who lives in Chicago, asked the receptionist at an April ultrasound appointment whether the technician who would be performing the test was vaccinated. To her disappointment, the receptionist wouldn’t disclose that information.
“I need to know if I’m putting myself at risk of contracting COVID and whether health care workers who are treating me are vaccinated is important information,” Butler said.
Under Illinois law, organizations that handle people’s personal information, including medical information, are required to protect it, said Sara Shanti, a partner in the health care group at law firm Benesch in Chicago. Also, if a provider works for a large health system where he or she is also a patient, that person’s vaccination status would be protected under the federal law restricting release of medical information.