Utica, N.Y.— Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar and the federal government to aid states in their ongoing efforts to support underserved communities and protect undocumented immigrants under the Covid-19 vaccination program.
Currently, the federal program does not provide funding to help states distribute the vaccine to black, brown, Asian and low-income areas. It is anticipated that the vaccine distribution points will neglect these areas, the very areas that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
“He’s right to be concerned,” Shelly Callahan, Executive Director at The Center said. “The federal government isn’t giving the states enough money to make sure that they can have a distribution of the vaccine in the communities that really need it.”
In his letter, Cuomo also addressed another concern about how under the current program states are required to participate in a data-sharing agreement that would provide identification information that could be shared with federal agencies, like Homeland Security, and ICE. The fear of being exposed to immigration agencies will cause many undocumented immigrants to not get the vaccine.
“You want everybody to get this vaccine,” Callahan explained. “And if you have a significant number of the population afraid that they are collecting data that is being used against them in some way you are going to have people not being vaccinated and that is completely opposite of what we are trying to achieve here. In terms of public health, I see no point in gathering that specific information.”
Currently, there are thought to be 866,000 undocumented immigrants living in New York alone and many of them are essential workers, they handle your groceries, serve your food, and the consequences of large groups of people not receiving the vaccine are enormous.
“The way these vaccines work best is by making sure that as many people as possible are covered and protected,” Steve Moore, Pharmacist and Co-Owner of Condo Pharmacy explained. “So when you have large populations that aren’t vaccinated and protected to the same degree that you like you potentially expose not only those individuals to the disease but also healthy individuals who for whatever reason haven’t had the vaccine yet or can’t get the vaccine.”