Is CDC Tracking Patients Who Decline COVID-19 Shots?

By AnneMarie Schieber | Health Care News | March 13, 2023

Diagnostic codes that allow health care providers to collect data on people who decline COVID-19 shots are raising questions in Congress.

The latest version of the International Classification of Disease (ICD), known as ICD-10, includes sub-codes that allow a physician, pharmacist, or technician to note a patient’s refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and the reason. ICD codes are recorded in patient health records and used for insurance billing. ICD data, without personal patient identifiers, are collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and nine other House Republicans sent a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky requesting information about the agency’s plans for the data, The Daily Signal reported on February 28.

“The ICD system was originally intended to classify diagnoses and reasons for visiting the doctor, not to conduct surveillance on the personal medical decisions of American citizens,” the letter stated.

Denies Tracking Data

The CDC is not using the information to construct a database, spokesman Nick Spinelli told The Daily Signal.

“The ICD codes were implemented in April 2022, however, the CDC/NCHS does not have any data on the codes and will not be tracking this information,” said Spinelli. “The codes are developed and managed by the World Health Organization to enable health care providers to track within their practices. Also, for some specialties, the codes are used to track organ donors’ ability to donate.”

Profiling Americans Based on Beliefs

The new ICD-10 codes went into effect on April 1, 2022, but are only now receiving attention, says Twila Brase, president and co-founder of Citizen’s Council for Health Freedom, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which co-publishes Health Care News.

“I think the American people are just getting wind of it and are upset,” said Brase.

One reason the sub-codes give for COVID-19 shot refusal is “patient decision for reasons of belief or group pressure,” which is none of government’s business, says Brase.

 “There is no reason why the CDC should be collecting information on people’s personal mindsets—unless they want to target them, create a campaign against them, create a propaganda campaign for the shots, or build a tracking system that profiles Americans according to their belief structure,” said Brase.

‘CDC Is Stonewalling’

The CDC has not responded directly to the letter, Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK), one of the letter’s signers, told The Daily Signal.

“Two weeks ago, we sent a letter to the CDC demanding answers about its new COVID-19 vaccine database,” said Brecheen. “The CDC is stonewalling us and refusing to respond.”

“Why won’t the CDC explain why it’s gathering data about Americans’ personal choices? House Republicans are not afraid to use the budgetary process to keep the CDC accountable to the American people,” said Brecheen.

In addition to Roy and Brecheen, the letter was signed by Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ); Dan Bishop (NC); Lauren Boebert (CO); Mary Miller (IL); Andy Ogles (TN); Bill Posey (FL); Keith Self (TX); and Greg Steube (FL).

Walensky had not replied to their letter, as of press time for Health Care News.

‘Shut Down Surveillance’

The congressional letter asked for answers to five specific questions.

“1. Why did the (CDC) and (NCHS) decide to start gathering data on why Americans chose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine? 2. How do CDC and NCHS intend to use these new COVID-19 vaccination ICD codes? 3. What steps are the CDC and NCHS taking to ensure that Americans’ private health information contained in the ICD system is protected? 4. Will the CDC and NCHS confirm that they have not, will not, and cannot create a database of Americans based on their COVID-19 vaccination status? 5. Can the CDC and NCHS confirm that private companies do not have access to lists of Americans’ COVID-19 vaccination status through the ICD system, or any other database overseen by the CDC and NCHS?”

Instead of making inquiries, Brase says Members of Congress should assert their oversight authority.

“They are asking unelected bureaucrats for answers like they’re groveling,” said Brase. “Why don’t they just demand that they shut down surveillance on the American people?”

Read more at Health Care News