Report: Public Health Experts Worry Immigration Fears May Prevent Undocumented People from Getting COVID-19 Vaccine

In recent weeks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two COVID-19 vaccines—one from Pfizer and one from Moderna. On December 14th, the first shipment of the vaccine arrived in Southern California. It is a desperately needed glimmer of hope on the horizon, as Los Angeles County recently set another new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Unfortunately, there are worries about vaccine access. Some fear that the Trump Administration’s record of harsh immigration policies may undermine access in some vulnerable communities. According to a report from NBC Southern California, public health experts fear that worries about immigration enforcement may prevent undocumented immigrants from getting the vaccine.

Questions are Being Raised About Vaccine Distribution and Access

Public health experts are concerned for several reasons. First, there are still questions about the speed and efficacy of vaccine distribution. Second, there are questions about the cost for undocumented immigrants. Finally, many people are worried that their information will be shared with immigration enforcement authorities when they get the vaccine. Immigration rights activists want to make sure that:

  • Vaccines are distributed properly to undocumented immigrants;
  • Undocumented immigrants receive vaccines at no cost; and
  • All sensitive personal information is kept strictly confidential.

The California Department of Public Health has committed to making sure that the “vaccine can be equitably distributed and administered at the community level to everyone in California who wants it.” We are still waiting to see exactly how federal, state, and local authorities will handle distribution.

Efficient distribution of the vaccine matters. As a representative of the Chicano Federation told reporters, undocumented immigrants “don’t have the luxuries of staying home.” They are left out of most public benefits programs and must continue working through the crisis to support themselves and their families.

COVID-19 Does Not Discriminate—Neither Should Our Public Health Resources

Every community in the United States has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of December 29th, 2020, more than 19 million cases of the respiratory disease have been confirmed nationwide. As many mild and moderate cases went undetected or underreported—particularly in the spring of 2020—the true number of cases is far higher. Indeed, some public health experts estimate that as many as 70 million Americans have already had the virus.

COVID-19 does not discriminate and neither should our public health system. Everyone should get access to the vaccine. Unfortunately, for socioeconomic reasons, many undocumented communities in Southern California have been disproportionately affected by the outbreak. For reference the comprehensive COVID-19 data from the County of San Diego indicates that zip codes with higher numbers of undocumented immigrants have seen more pronounced COVID-19 spread. It is imperative that people in need get access to vaccines and other health resources.

We Support Immigrant Rights in California

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are a full-service immigration law firm representing people and families throughout Southern California. If you need legal advice, our team is more than ready to help. For a confidential initial strategy consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer, please call our Los Angeles law office today.

Josh Goldstein
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