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The many billions funded by taxpayers to develop and buy vaccines from Big Pharmaceuticals including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson is just one aspect of “following the money” in the COVID pandemic saga.
The lockdowns, which saw giants from retail and restaurant industries experience explosive growth in 2020, while small and local businesses were decimated, is another obvious part of the equation. 
But less talked about is the money on the backend to be made from companies mining all the new data American citizens are being forced to fork over while taking their COVID tests and getting their vaccines.
According to recent reports, drug chains including CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens are collecting data from millions of customers signing up for shots, enrolling them in patient systems, and making recipients register customer profiles.
The retailers admit the information is being culled to promote their stores and services, and to do things like target marketing in sophisticated ways, based on the supplied user data.
“Every one of these customers is coming through our digital front end, so we have their email, we have their text message, and we have the ability to communicate with them regularly,” said CVS CEO Jonathan Roberts.
Of course, the companies also claim the data they’re collecting is first and foremost “critical” in streamlining the administering of vaccinations and “improving record-keeping.” They say requiring the info also ensures only qualified people are receiving shots.
CVS and the other companies sucking up data from citizens who were never in their systems before openly admit they plan to mine it to the fullest. Roberts said CVS will “stay in touch” with vaccine recipients beyond receiving their second shot and use information gleaned from the vaccine administration to better market to them.
Some eight million people who received a COVID test from CVS in 2020 hadn’t filled a prescription with the company in the prior 12 months. So there’s no doubt the chain, as well as others, are getting a treasure trove of potential new customer data.
The participation of drug chains in dispensing vaccines is part of a federal program to get vaccines out to millions of Americans as fast as possible. Shares of CVS, which also owns Walgreens, rose 6 percent when the federal program was first announced.
Data mining is the backend method by which the drug companies are being allowed to profit from their role in the vaccination process. When it comes to COVID, normal restrictions against forcing users to hand over personal data to retailers don’t apply.
Those retailers are reportedly taking various approaches in gathering and using data. At Walmart, vaccine-takers have to create a “patient profile” in the company’s online system. Meanwhile, Hartig Drug Stores, a midwest chain, is analyzing what people buy when they come to receive vaccinations, according to CEO Charlie Hartig.
As far as products that may help ease the pain associated with side effects of the vax? “We encourage the products we have in the store and encourage [the] purchase of those,” said Hartig.

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