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Why posting your vaccine card selfie is a bad idea

While vaccine selfies have been lauded for helping combat vaccine hesitancy, experts warn against including vaccination cards in your photo.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — You finally got the vaccine and want to share the news, so you take a celebratory picture at the vaccine clinic “selfie station.” While vaccine selfies have been lauded for helping combat vaccine hesitancy, experts warn against including vaccination cards in your photo.

“I cringe when I see people who put their vaccination cards out there,” said Angel Kern, a cyber security lecturer at Penn State Harrisburg. “People tend to be really naïve in what they post on social media and don’t understand the consequences.”

The information on the vaccination card—birth date, medical record number, date of vaccination, location of vaccine center—is all some scammers need to sell fake versions of vaccination cards and steal identities.

“They want to get into your medical record and steal your insurance information, the ability to get healthcare, steal your medical identity,” Kern said.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), a federal law to ensure protected health information is confidential, prevents certain health information from being shared by health care providers.

If you share the information yourself, though, companies are allowed to use it. Even seemingly harmless details such as which vaccine you received can have potentially serious ramifications for health insurance or employment.

“If you took one of the vaccines that has a side effect and maybe you’re going to have the potential high probability of high blood clots, so I may want to raise your health insurance rates or I may want to deny you a job because you’re a risk to the company because of the high cost of healthcare,” said Ron Jones, professor of digital forensics and cyber security at Harrisburg University.

Certain cases of posting could run afoul of the law. If vaccines get approved for children under 13, a vaccination card posted on social media could violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

“[The social media companies] would have to take that down because that would be children’s health information,” Jones said.

While it’s tempting to hashtag #TeamPfizer or #TeamModerna, experts emphasize it’s better to celebrate this milestone with a photo of the sticker you got for receiving the vaccine, or a simple selfie.

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