Providing false info for vaccinations has negative consequences
Approximately 15% of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccines in Pitkin County are improperly filling out data collection records, which could later come back to haunt them, officials said Friday.
Some of the bad information appears to be mistakes — like using a nickname instead of a real name — but other entries are clearly intentionally wrong, like entering “why?” in the address portion of the form, said Carly Senst, the county’s vaccine and testing coordinator, and Gabe Muething, who oversees the vaccine clinics.
“What people need to understand is that this is a medical record,” said Muething, who also serves as director of the Aspen Ambulance District. “If you wouldn’t give your doctor bad information, don’t give us bad information. It’s all the same.”
The vaccine records are not used for advertising purposes, are not sold to marketing companies and are protected, like any other medical record, by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, they said. They are entered by Aspen Valley Hospital into each person’s medical record and can be accessed by the person’s doctor.
“This is not Ticketmaster,” Senst said. “This is not booking a concert.”
The vaccine records, in other words, are similar to a driver’s license or passport.
“If it’s not accurate, it’s a different person so it won’t attach to you,” Senst said.
Entering a false date of birth or fake name or not completely filling out the information has consequences, they said. If, for example, the government decides to issue vaccine passports in the future for travel, work or school, the vaccine record of a person who entered false information won’t be available to them.
Or if someone loses the white CDC card issued to each vaccinated person containing proof of the vaccination, they will not be able to obtain a copy from their doctor like someone who entered the correct information could do, Senst said. Even if someone remembers the false information they provided, county public health officials cannot reissue the cards because they would have no way of knowing if the person is who they say they are, she said.
County public health officials have received many requests for new cards from people who have lost their original cards. In fact, the only way to replace them is through the person’s primary care physician, Senst said.
“If the person put down egregiously wrong information and lost their card, there’s not a lot we can do,” she said.
Senst said that she had to deny one person a vaccination at the most recent clinic Thursday because the person refused to provide identifying information. Officials have also run into problems in earlier clinics when people who weren’t yet 60 or 70 years old — the threshold at the time — entered birth dates indicating they were, Muething said.
Another problem officials ran into at the latest clinic — the first to include 16-year-olds — was parents making vaccination appointments in their own names rather than their children’s, Senst said.
“People are looking at it as a placeholder,” she said.
Entering false information also affects everyone else who followed the rules, Muething said. That’s because each dose provided to Pitkin County by the state ends up with a person’s name on it that must be provided back to state public health officials. If there are issues with bad information and delays in reporting it, the state can use that as an excuse to delay further shipments of vaccine to the county, he said.
At the clinic held March 25 at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot, approximately 1,700 people were vaccinated. Around 250 of those people either didn’t fully fill out the form or intentionally entered wrong information, such as false birth dates or phone numbers, Senst said.
County public health officials then have to manually go through each of those 250 records and try and rectify them with information about real people. Sometimes that works out when, for example, there are misspellings or nicknames, and addresses or phone numbers on file can provide the accurate information, she said. But when that can’t happen, that vaccination record is essentially lost in the ether, Senst said.
Those who have provided fake information in order to receive vaccinations should talk to their doctors about how to remedy the situation, Senst said.
“We want the public to realize there are consequences for putting in bad information,” Muething said. “Think about any important document you have. This is absolutely no different.”
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While vaccine booster eligibility criteria can seem complicated on paper, in practice what the state and federal authorities are essentially saying is that anyone who thinks they need a booster dose should get one provided enough time has passed since their initial doses or doses.