Letter from IH raises concerns and breach of privacy questions for 1 man

'Massive breach of privacy?'

A Kelowna resident named Jon believes he was subject to what he is calling a 'massive breach of medical privacy' after a letter was mailed to his home from Interior Health sharing his COVID-19 immunization status on the outside of the envelope.

On the front of the envelope in blue lettering is a message: 'A COVID-19 vaccine has been reserved for you.'
Jon says he called both Interior Health and Dr Bonnie Henry's office for more details.

"The first question I asked was did this letter get mailed to everyone or just people who didn't get their first dose? They both told me everyone in B.C. got the letter who did not get their first dose."

Inside the letter, Jon says Henry encourages people to get vaccinated.

BC Liberal MLA Dan Ashton took to Facebook early Monday morning to comment on the concerns.

"Late last week I began to receive complaints from non-vaccinated citizens regarding letters they had received from Dr. Bonnie Henry in envelopes from Interior Health."

"The intent of these letters was to encourage these citizens to become vaccinated. I have read the letters and found them to be well written and I would like to go on record in support of efforts of our Public Health Officer to encourage vaccination rates."

"However, that was not the nature of the concern from the citizens who contacted me. The concern was that rather than using blank envelopes, as health information is usually communicated in B.C., these envelopes were clearly marked on the outside making it clear that the recipient of the letter had not yet been vaccinated."

"For those living in shared accommodation or in another environment where others have access to their mail, it creates a situation where their personal health information has now been compromised without their consent," Ashton wrote.

Castanet reached out to IH for clarification on the matter.

"Interior Health worked with provincial partners to send letters to postal codes in communities with lower vaccination rates.

The intent of the letter was to inform eligible people that the first and second doses of vaccines are available to them. Receipt of a letter in no way indicates a person’s immunization status, as we recognize that some recipients will have already received their first or second dose prior to receiving the letter, or may not be able to be immunized for medical or other reasons.

For those individuals, we hope they understand that our extensive efforts to ensure everyone who is eligible to be immunized is aware of their vaccine opportunities, is aimed at reaching 80% vaccination coverage that protects both individuals, and their communities."

The letter went on to say that more than 100,000 letters were sent out in the Interior Health region.

"We understand that some people are unable or may choose not to get vaccinated, while others have recently gotten vaccinated."

"The mail is intended to help people who want to get vaccinated, to do so at a time and location that is convenient for them. Getting as many British Columbians as possible vaccinated is how we will put the pandemic behind us," Interior Health wrote in an email.

Jon says the letter is signed by Bonnie Henry but was sent by Interior Health.

"Both Interior Health and Bonnie Henry's office admitted to me that these letters were only sent to non-vaccinated people."

"Imagine if you had cancer and the letter said we have treatment for your cancer. It has got to be illegal. I talked to a bunch of my friends and the people who didn't have their first dose all got the letter," he added.

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