December 1, 2020
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Issues Letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Urging Support for Underserved Communities and Protection for Undocumented Immigrants in Vaccine Distribution Program

TOP Governor Cuomo Issues Letter to Secretary of...

Federal Vaccination Program Does Not Provide Funding for Black, Brown, Asian and Low-income Communities That Are Underserved by Private Healthcare Facilities

 

Program Requires State Governments to Execute a Data Sharing Agreement Which Could Dissuade Undocumented Immigrants from Taking Vaccine

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and a coalition of groups today issued a letter to Department for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urging the federal administration to support underserved communities and protect undocumented immigrants in the federal COVID-19 vaccination program. The current federal program lacks funding to bolster states' efforts to distribute the vaccine to Black, Brown, Asian and low-income communities which are underserved by private healthcare facilities. It also requires states to execute a data sharing agreement which includes providing identification data that could be shared with multiple federal agencies, including immigration agencies, which could dissuade undocumented immigrants from taking the vaccine. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York State has proposed a modified system which would protect residents' personal information and help ensure confidence in the vaccine and its distribution program.

"We are quickly moving toward a COVID-19 vaccine, which is good news. However, the federal government's current plan to vaccinate Americans neglects key priorities that we need to effectively distribute the vaccine to millions of New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "We need to focus on Black, Brown, Asian and low-income communities that are historically underserved by the healthcare institutions that are key to the federal government's plan. I'm also concerned that by asking for personal information, undocumented immigrants could be dissuaded from taking the vaccine. Time is of the essence as we get closer to the distribution date and I urge the administration to address these issues quickly."

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

December 1, 2020

 

Dear Secretary Azar:

 

We write to bring attention to a very important issue concerning the upcoming vaccination process. 

 

Obviously, a successful program administering the vaccine is critical to the national health. But for the vaccination program to be successful, it must have the full participation of all the people in the United States. To that end, we join with Governor Cuomo in raising concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the current federal vaccination program. 

 

First, we are deeply troubled by the failure of the federal vaccination program to provide the states with adequate funding to undertake effective vaccination plans for the Black, Brown, Asian and lower-income communities that are underserved by private healthcare facilities.  The COVID infection and death rates are significantly higher in these communities, and failure to provide these communities with an adequate vaccination program, whether by intent or effect, will further discriminate against these communities.  We join with national civil rights groups such as the National Urban League and the NAACP in calling for a federally funded fair and equal vaccination program.

 

Second, the federal government requires that a Data Sharing Agreement be executed by state governments before commencing the vaccination program.  The current Data Sharing Agreement provided by the federal government requires identification of each person who is vaccinated - the federal government suggests that states use Social Security numbers, driver's license identification numbers, or passport numbers to fulfill this requirement. 

 

This provision obviously raises concerns, as the proposed criteria are all proxies for proof of citizenship.  The concern is exacerbated by an additional federal provision in the Data Sharing Agreement specifically providing that the information could be shared with other federal agencies, i.e. the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  If undocumented Americans are dissuaded from participating in the vaccination program, it would jeopardize both their health and the efficacy of the entire vaccination program. 

 

New York State has proposed two clarifications or modifications to address the issue.  First, New York will provide an identification system to effectively track vaccinated individuals and the required dosages that does not identify to the Federal government an individual's Social Security number, passport number, or driver's license number.  The state will provide aggregate data.  In addition, the Federal government must agree to keep vaccination identification information private as with any other health matter, and agree not to share it with any non-health agency for any other purpose.

 

It is in everyone's interest for all of us to work together to encourage our respective constituents to participate in the vaccination program.  Outreach efforts to Black, Brown, Asian and low-income communities is essential.  Further, it is certainly not in the national interest for individuals to have valid concerns preventing such participation, and the undocumented community has specific and valid cause for concern in providing unnecessary, irrelevant, and sensitive information to federal agencies. 

 

We look forward to working together to organize a fast and effective vaccine program to ensure the national health.  Thank you for your consideration, cooperation, and courtesy.

 

Sincerely,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo


Guillermo Chacon

President

Hispanic Health Network & Latino Commission on AIDS, Inc.


Andy Chen

Executive Director

Asian American Community Empowerment



Rawaa Nancy Albilal

President & CEO

Arab-American Family Support Center



Diana Saguilán

Interim Co-Executive Director

Worker Justice Center of New York



Maria Lizardo LMSW

Executive Director

NMIC



Beth A. Broadway

President/CEO

InterFaith Works of Central New York



Davon Russell

President

WHEDco



Martha Maffei

Executive Director

SEPA Mujer Inc.



Jirandy Martinez

Executive Director

Community Resource Center



Linda Lee

President & CEO

Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York



Alan Wernick

Director

CUNY Citizenship Now!



Alba Lucero Villa

Executive Director

Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights



Rebecca Sanin

President and CEO

Health and Welfare Council of Long Island



Eddie Cuesta

Executive Director

Dominicanos USA (DUSA)



Frankie Miranda

President

Hispanic Federation



Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Executive Director

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York



Sister Helen Kearney

President

Sisters of St. Joseph



Shelly Callahan

Executive Director

The Center



Andrea Callan, Esq.

Interim Co-Executive Director

Worker Justice Center of New York



Fanny Villarreal

CEO

YWCA of Syracuse and Onondaga County



Minerva Perez

Executive Director

OLA of Eastern Long Island



Jeff Reynolds

President & CEO

Family and Children's Association



Carola Otero Bracco

Executive Director

Neighbors Link



Talib Z. Abdullah

Executive Director

ACCESS of WNY



Manuel Castro

Executive Director

New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)



Ben Thomases

Executive Director

Queens Community House



Mohammad Razvi

Chief Executive Officer

Council of Peoples Organization



John Park

Executive Director

MinKwon Center for Community Action



Gladys Serrano

CEO
Hispanic Counseling Center



Ligia Guallpa

Worker's Justice Project

(WJC)



Mimi Pierre Johnson

President and CEO

The Elmont Cultural Center



Albert Fox Cahn

Executive Director

S.T.O.P. - The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project



Nyasa Hickey

Director of Immigration Initiatives

Brooklyn Defender Services



Rokeya Akhter

Executive Director

New American Voters Association



Donna Lieberman

Executive Director

New York Civil Liberties Union



Carmen Maquilon

Director

Catholic Charities of Long Island

Immigrant Services



Karen M. Andolina Scott

Executive Director

Journey's End Refugee Services, Inc.



Helen Alesi

Executive Director

Latino Civic Association



Kyle Bragg

President

32BJ SEIU



Pabitra Benjamin

Executive Director

Adhikaar



Jo-Ann Yoo

Executive Director

Asian American Federation



Jacob Dixon

CEO

Choice for All



Eileen Torres

Executive Director

Bronxworks



Jay Subedi

New Americans Forum



Justine Olderman

Executive Director

Bronx Defenders



Yeseina Mata

Executive Director

La Colmena



Margarita Guzman

Executive Director

Violence Intervention Program



Murad Awawdeh

Interim Co-Executive Director

New York Immigration Coalition



Lucy A. Candelario

Executive Director

Erie Regional Housing Development Corporation d/b/a The Belle Center



Mino Lora

Co-Founder & Executive Director

People's Theatre Project



Deborah Axt

Co-Executive Director

Make the Road New York



Eva Hassett

Executive Director

International Institute of Buffalo



cc:   President-Elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

        New York State Congressional Delegation

        Members of the Congressional Black Caucus

        Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

        Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus



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