CVS advertising COVID-19 vaccine
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Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are Using Vaccines to get Your Data

I became eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine on February 15. Hoping to get an edge on the millions of other newly eligible New Yorkers I’d be competing with for an appointment, I spent a few days before the big day figuring out how and where to sign up for a vaccine between the many portals for my state, my city, health care providers, and retail pharmacies that were distributing them.

And that’s when I noticed something about Walgreens:

Last November, the Trump administration announced a partnership with retail pharmacies to distribute coronavirus vaccines, which would provide people across the country with more places to get vaccines and people to administer them. That’s a good thing. The other side of it is, as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, some pharmacies are taking advantage of the program to make some extra money off of their new customers.

If you schedule a Covid-19 vaccine appointment with major pharmacy chains such as Walgreens or CVS, your data may be used to bulk up those companies’ own significant marketing apparatuses, giving them a source of income even beyond what they’re paid for administering the vaccines and whatever you might decide to buy while you’re in the store to get one. In some cases, you’re forced to make an account with the store to get a vaccine at all, and deactivating your mandatory account after the fact isn’t easy.

“To schedule vaccination appointments, we ask people to create a Walgreens account to fulfill data and reporting requirements online before arriving at a store location,” a Walgreens spokesperson told Recode. “This enables a safer and more streamlined in-store experience — reducing lines and in-store wait times that can be a by-product of collecting this information at the pharmacy counter.”

When you go to the Walgreens vaccine scheduler, you can find out if there are vaccines available in your area, but you can’t see where and when appointments are available — let alone schedule one — without first making a Walgreens account. And that means giving Walgreens the information it considers necessary to make that account, including your name, date of birth, phone number, address, gender (male or female are the only options), and email address. You’re also automatically signing up to receive marketing emails, which you can only opt out of later through your account settings. Oh, and you’re encouraged to join the myWalgreens loyalty program, which gives Walgreens even more data about your purchases and automatically signs you up for even more marketing emails. Read Full Article >

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