Those Who Ask, “Are You Vaccinated?” Aren’t the Enemy

The dental hygienist was inches from my face, talking, and I felt her heavy breathing. I asked, “Are you vaccinated?”

She told it wasn’t my right to ask, but that she had received a vaccination. That HIPPA protected her. Her tone was sharp, angry, as if I’d committed a sin.

She then attacked my mouth with her scraper; her annoyance transmitted through her dental tool, making me fear for my teeth.

Several weeks before, I’d asked another medical provider the same question. She had chosen not to get vaccinated. After she explained the precautions she used, I felt satisfied me and have gone back to see her once more.

The hygienist, however, made me wrong for asking a question I felt was my right as patient to ask, given that I wasn’t masked inches from her face. I made a calendar note to ask for a different hygienist next time.

These situations came to mind as my clients include several small medical clinics whose practice administrators have asked how they can protect their staff’s privacy rights and satisfy patients who want answers. I’ve been told several staff members tell patients, “I don’t need to answer that.”

When the practice administrators ask, I answer “the tone in which the staff member asks matters.” It may be the staff member’s right not to answer, but it’s not their right to shame or chastise the patient who asks. That patient has the right to protect his or her health.

Those who ask aren’t the enemy. COVID-19 and the Delta variant are.    

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6 thoughts on “Those Who Ask, “Are You Vaccinated?” Aren’t the Enemy

  1. I believe it is ludicrous that there is a requirement for patient care providers (as well as many other ‘in office’ or ‘in home’ appointment schedulers) to ask ‘the COVID questions’ – and be able to refuse to allow patients who do not meet the requirements access – BUT NOT HAVE TO ANSWER THEM AS WELL!

    I work for a business that does ‘in home’ work. Any time there is a request for service we ask those questions. I believe it is a requirement. And the customers can insist on our employees taking/practicing proper prophylactic requirements when we service them.

    I know that if my dentist or hygienist, or GP refused to answer about their actions and activities to protect me from them – the next thing they would see would be my backside as I found a new place to work with.

    Ask not of me what you refuse to answer yourself!!! Surviving life is not a one-way street.

  2. I agree, it seems there should be a new regulation/procedure given how deadly and contagious the Delta variant and COVID-19 is.

  3. Last year – January 2020 – I saw my primary care physician. As usual, she wore a mask to protect herself from germs she might have gotten from her patients. I didn’t demand that she unmask even though it was hard to understand her through the mask. If medical professionals can protect themselves from possible infection, why can’t patients do the same thing – irregardless of HIPPA. I’m sorry folks. You can’t have it both ways. I absolutely think you had a right to ask about vaccination. Furthermore, professional health care providers should ACT like professionals and put the patient ‘s care before their own concerns. Whatever answer they give to the “are you vaccinated” question, they should do their best to reassure the patient that they will be well cared for and their needs met.

  4. These comments are on target, IMO. It is the patient’s right to ask the dental hygienist or the medical tech or the doctor or other healthcare provider who is touching their body and standing or sitting close to them if they’ve been vaccinated. Why are people so defensive about it? Because they have something to hide? Because that’s one of the ways the defensiveness can easily be interpreted. Health professionals ought to be able to answer such questions from patients without having a meltdown. Patients have legitimate concerns about their safety in a medical office.

    Here are the good responses given in the post: Yes, I’ve been vaccinated–and how ab out you? or no, I haven’t been vaccinated, this is why and here’s what I’m doing about it to help keep patients safe.

    1. Well said, Susan. I value privacy and HIPPA but believe the pandemic turns this upside down and that patients have the right to protect their safety.

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