Privacy watchdog ok with calls to unvaccinated Ontario residents

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The Ontario Ministry of Health has received no opposition from the province’s privacy watchdog in its plan to use personal health information to contact unvaccinated residents.

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The Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre is reaching out to individuals to provide information on COVID-19 vaccines and opportunities to book first or second doses.

A current phone campaign is aimed at people who have not received a first dose.

“While the key indicators for COVID-19 are trending in the right direction, our province’s fight with COVID-19 isn’t over,” Health Ministry spokesperson Bill Campbell said in a statement. “These calls are only to offer information and an opportunity to book an appointment — no one is being called simply to be asked why they haven’t been vaccinated or to be coerced in any way.”

When asked about the privacy of individuals’ health information, ministry officials say the data for this and similar initiatives is stored in a secure government system.

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“No information that identifies individuals will be disclosed in any reports or findings that are shared publicly,” the statement says.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario confirmed it had been consulted on the Ministry of Health proposal.

“Ontario’s health privacy law permits health information custodians, including the Ministry of Health, to use personal health information for the purpose of planning or delivering programs or services that it provides or funds,” a statement from the office says. “The ministry has indicated that it is using personal health information to plan and deliver the COVID-19 vaccination program in accordance with its permissions and responsibilities under (information and privacy legislation).”

aartuso@postmedia.com

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