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St. Charles County Council considers immunization data repository partnership

In a long, but spirited meeting, the St. Charles County Council grappled, again, with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated fallout from the crisis at its meeting on Wednesday, May 27 at the St. Peters Justice Center.

The meeting quickly became a quite sprightly affair as various speakers expressed concern about the so-called ShowMeVax bill, and council members intently questioned the county health director about it and other matters relating to the continuing pandemic.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, seven speakers spoke against Bill No. 4852, the so-called ShowMeVax proposal. The measure would create a Memorandum of Understanding with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and establish an immunization data repository. That concept drew universal scorn from speakers, who questioned the motives behind the repository and the possibility that its data would be shared with other agencies. Council chairman Terry Hollander [District 5] agreed to allow five speakers to advocate against the proposed bill, rather than the customary three usually allowed to speak on a single topic.

The five citizens spoke against the proposal and included two retired registered nurses and one practicing nurse. They characterized the proposal as an egregious case of bureaucratic overreach and all stated that they were under the strictest of orders in protecting patient confidentiality and the inviolable nature of personal medical records. The consensus of opinion held that this measure would breach that confidentiality in the name of protecting public health. After hearing from those residents, Hollander decided to move the meeting along with a promise that the measure would be taken up after the completion of other agenda items.

Later in the meeting, St. Charles County Health Director Demetrius Cinaci-Chapman briefed the council on matters related to the continuing pandemic. Opening preliminary debate on the proposed ShowMeVax bill, Cinaci-Chapman explained that the intent of the memorandum of understanding is to allow the St. Charles County Department of Public Health to make real-time, electronic queries and retrieve patient immunization records from the state wide immunization data repository. The language of the bill specifies that the memorandum will establish a safe and secured data communications mechanism for the St. Charles County Department of Health to transmit immunization records to the Missouri immunization data repository.

Further, the bill language states that the memorandum of understanding addresses the confidentiality of all data as required by applicable state and federal laws, including training of all staff involved in immunization data transmission and use of related confidentiality and privacy issues and safeguards to prevent unauthorized access to electronic immunization records.

Despite those reassurances, reaction from the council was not understated. Council member Dave Hammond [District 4] commented that his medical records were nobody’s business but his own and that he would vote against the bill, which brought a short cheer from some members of the public. That vote was scheduled to take place after at the council’s June 8 meeting, which took place after press time.

Also on May 27, Bill No. 4850, accepting an award of $47,165,202 from the state to establish a Coronavirus Relief Fund was passed without opposition.

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