Walgreens Vaccine: On February 15, I became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
I spent a few days before the big day figuring out how and where to sign up for a vaccine between the many portals for my state, my city, health care providers, and retail pharmacies that were distributing them, hoping to get an edge on the millions of other newly eligible New Yorkers I’d be competing with for an appointment.
It was at that point that Walgreens Vaccine
The Trump administration said in November that it would partner with retail pharmacies to provide coronavirus vaccines, giving consumers across the country more options for immunizations and people to administer them.
That’s a positive development. On the other hand, as the Wall Street Journal revealed earlier this week, some pharmacies are taking advantage of the program to profit from their new consumers.
Covid-19 vaccine appointment
Your data may be used to bulk up major pharmacy chains’ own significant marketing apparatuses if you schedule a Covid-19 vaccine appointment with them, giving them a source of income beyond what they’re paid for administering the vaccines and whatever you might decide to buy while you’re in the store to get one.
In other circumstances, you need to create an account with the store in order to receive a vaccine, and canceling your required account thereafter is difficult.
“We ask consumers to register a Walgreens account to meet data and reporting obligations online before coming to a store location to book vaccination appointments,” a Walgreens spokeswoman told Recode.
“This allows for a safer and more streamlined in-store experience, decreasing queues and in-store wait times that can occur as a result of gathering this data at the pharmacy counter.”
You can find out if immunizations are available in your region by visiting the Walgreens vaccine scheduler, but you can’t see where and when appointments are available — let alone schedule one — without first creating a Walgreens account.
That includes providing Walgreens with the information it deems necessary to create the account, such as your name, date of birth, phone number, address, gender (male or female is the only option), and email address.
You’re also signing up for marketing emails by default, which you can only opt-out of later through your account settings. Oh, and you should join my Walgreens loyalty program, which provides Walgreens even more information about your purchases and automatically enrolls you in more marketing mailings.
This isn’t true for all of the information you provide: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects any information you provide while getting a vaccine at a drugstore (HIPAA).
Walgreens makes signing forms
Walgreens makes signing up for all of this a breeze, and it’s especially pushy when it comes to data requests in general. For example, to participate in its Walgreens loyalty program, which tracks all purchases made with your Walgreens card, users must now supply a valid email address.
Walgreens just launched its Walgreens Advertising Group, a “modern, full-service, personalization-driven advertising platform built-in insights and rich first-party data” that advertisers can use to target ads to you.
Where did the “rich first-party data” come from? The loyalty program is what I’m referring to.
It’s a little more difficult to deactivate your Walgreens account after you’ve received your immunization. You can’t even do it on the internet. You must dial 1-877-250-5823 to reach Walgreens customer support.
How to Record the CDC’s agreement data
According to Recode, the CDC’s agreement with participating pharmacies requires them to use an online scheduling system for vaccine appointments for social distancing purposes, but it also allows pharmacists to use their own.
As a result, Walgreens reverted to its old method, which required patients to create an account. Walmart followed suit, though it does at least allow patients to opt-out of receiving marketing emails when they register, and it doesn’t require anything other than a name and email address to create an account.
Getting rid of your Walmart account once you no longer need it is more difficult than getting it in the first place, as it was with Walgreens.
What are Walmart Account Guidelines
Walmart’s guidelines for closing your account say to “call our Customer Care team for assistance,” with no explanation on how to do so. You’ll find a “contact us” button if you scroll down the page a little.
Click that, then inform the chatbot that appears that you wish to deactivate your account, and then select your preferred contact method (online chat, phone, or email). It will take a few minutes for your account to be canceled, but it will be done.
Patients are not required to sign up for an account to receive a vaccine, according to Rite Aid and CVS, which, along with Walgreens and Walmart, receive the majority of vaccines distributed through the program.
However, neither Rite Aid nor CVS responded to follow-up questions about whether they collect data from patients for non-vaccine purposes, how it might be used, and if there’s a way to opt-out of data collection or delete whatever data has already been collected.
CVS did tell the Wall Street Journal that once clients received their second shot, it would “keep in touch” with them in the hopes of marketing things to them.
How to join CVS’s loyalty club | Walgreens Vaccine
Patients will also be encouraged to join CVS’s loyalty club while getting their vaccines, according to the business. CVS, like Walgreens, has an advertising arm that depends on data obtained through its loyalty program, which was launched last August.
Recode also reached out to Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, and Publix, as well as numerous other corporations with which the federal government has collaborated to give immunizations, for comment on whether and how they were gathering data on their patients.
The only company to answer was Costco, which said it appreciated my “attention and support” but had no further remark.
All of this is to say, get the vaccine. Yes, you may need to create a store account first, which is inconvenient.
Yes, it would be wonderful if the government imposed some regulations prohibiting retail pharmacists from collecting and using your personal information in this manner.
Yes, some pharmacies are taking advantage of a bad position to earn money off of you because most businesses will do anything to generate money, and your information is precious.
Your life and health, on the other hand, are far more valuable – even if you have to make certain privacy concessions to keep them.
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