Investigation

NIH Inadvertently Exposes Data On Individual Employees’ Vaccination Statuses Online

Government science agency still social distancing in its office despite saying more than 83% of employees are vaccinated.

   DailyWire.com
Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images
Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images

A high-level medical research unit within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) exposed a list of its employees and their self-reported vaccination statuses online, according to materials obtained by The Daily Wire.

“Dr. Gulley would like to get an idea of how many in GMB/MOS have been fully vaccinated. Apparently they are saying 86% of CR staff are vaccinated, but think that is an underestimate. Just to note, we are now allowed to ask these questions. If [sic] don’t mind participating in the poll that would be great,” program specialist Tammy Cole wrote in an email to the Genitourinary Malignancies Branch (GMB) of the Center for Cancer Research at NIH on June 8. The unit is led by Dr. James L. Gulley.

The email included a link to a public website on the survey platform Doodle, viewed by The Daily Wire, that listed the names of more than 75 NIH employees. They clicked on a checkmark next to their name to indicate whether they had been vaccinated or not, and all of the names and results were visible to others.

The Daily Wire sent questions about the data to NIH on Friday. On Saturday the agency asked for, and was provided, more information from the publication. But as of Monday afternoon, the employees’ names and vaccination statuses were still visible to anyone with an internet connection.

A doctor in the unit, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Wire that it was an unscientific push-poll that leaked people’s medical information onto the internet and raised questions about the U.S. government’s scientific agencies.

“These are the highest level medical researchers in the country… It’s unscientific data, they expose their employees to having their medical information posted online with an unsecured link. You’re tasked to safeguard a patient’s data and you just sell your employees out like this. They should know better, and they really screwed it up.”

The doctor added that making named employees’ answers to the survey visible to their colleagues had the effect of creating peer pressure and subjecting those who did not get vaccinated to retaliation.

“You can look people up and say who should we treat like a leper? I think the people pushing this right now are under intense pressure right now to toe the line that’s being pushed on them from on high.”

On May 11, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Congress that he estimated that “probably” about 60% of employees in his agency had been vaccinated by the data.

Peter Marks, the head of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation, told Congress the figure among his employees was “probably in the same range.”

Both said they were not sure, and Reuters noted that that would put the rates of government health experts who were vaccinated at about the same rate as the population at large.

Still, the prospect that not all government experts had chosen to get vaccinated after the shots were widely available posed a problem for public relations efforts that implied that only misinformation or ignorance would cause people to not take the vaccine.

The doctor said some medical experts carefully read the literature and determined that for them, the risks of an adverse reaction to the shot exceeded the risk of coronavirus itself. “You can look at the data on new cases,” such as data for Maryland — where NIH is located — that shows 0.75% testing positive and 162 hospitalizations in a state of six million. “You look at the CDC publication that says 3% of people are subject to serious adverse events. And you can think to yourself what’s the risk benefit?”

The employee called the new survey a “PR move” to allow medical agencies to report higher numbers of vaccinations among medical experts. The online survey reported that almost everyone had been vaccinated, but the employee noted that it was entirely self-reported and said “I bet a ton of those people lied” — with the ability to see how colleagues had answered creating peer pressure.

The employee said that NIH itself is still practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, with some employees working from home because not everyone can fit in the office while maintaining social distance.

NIH’s cancer research unit did not return a request for comment on whether, given that it believes that more than 86% of employees are vaccinated, that implied that management itself does not trust the vaccine’s efficacy.

A document from NIH Human Resources titled “Management Guidance – COVID-19 Vaccinations” says “Supervisors can request Federal employees to disclose whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccination only for legitimate business reasons (e.g., travel quarantine requirements, to determine physical spacing requirements in a lab) and cannot be used to determine if or when an individual employee is allowed in the workplace. If the employee has not been vaccinated, the supervisor cannot coerce or retaliate against the employee. Additionally, this information cannot be used to harass, or discriminate against employees, and
cannot be used to make decisions about their individual employment status.”

NIH’s cancer research group also did not respond to a question about the legitimate business reason for the survey.

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