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COVID-19 vaccine and the law: Why you can ask for proof of vaccination

Talking about vaccination status can be a touchy subject for some, but experts say that conversation could keep you safe and help end the pandemic faster

ST. LOUIS — “Are you fully vaccinated?”

It's a question that's being asked more and more often to figure out what's safe to do next, especially now that the CDC has said masking and social distancing is no longer necessary for people who have gotten the shot. 

With friends, out to eat, when traveling: Saint Louis University public health law professor Rob Gatter said it is legal to ask someone if they're vaccinated — and ask them to mask up if they're not.

“You might say, 'Well, that's private medical information, and so aren't there laws that make that somehow unspeakable?' And the answer's no,” he said, adding that HIPAA has nothing to do with this question. “Most confidentiality laws are aimed at specific people, mainly doctors and hospitals and other health care providers.”

Watch the extended interview with SLU public health law professor Rob Gatter in the YouTube video below:

Just like many businesses, friends and family are often under the vaccine "honor system." If you're planning a mask-free event, it's better safe than sorry, said vaccine expert Dr. Michael Kinch.

“If you're concerned, just don't invite them. It's best for them. It's best for the people that you will be around,” he said. “You would never think that party was worth it if something happened to that individual.”

What about talking to someone who doesn't want the shot?

“Don't make them feel defensive,” said Dr. Kinch. 

He said every new vaccine comes with some degree of hesitation, but with this particularly contagious, dangerous virus, it's important to talk to loved ones about their reasoning and encourage them to get the shot.

“Don't roll your eyes and give up on it," he said. "Have the conversation, engage the individual, find out what's really behind it. The odds are if you now look at facts, many of the concerns that are raised are probably very addressable.”

Medical experts say we'll all be better off when more people can say "yes" to the question “Are you fully vaccinated?”

“We all have to think about not just ourselves, but we really need to think about our community,” said Dr. Kinch.