U.S. Rep. Grace Meng
By Forum Staff
On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) called for changes to the Trump administration’s COVID-19 vaccination plan that would force states to sign an agreement in which the personal identification information of vaccine recipients would be shared with the federal government.
In a letter Meng led to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, the Congresswoman called for the agreement to not require the collection of personal identifiable information, such as Social Security, passport, and driver license numbers from those who receive the vaccine, and that it prohibit any individual identification data from being shared with non-health federal agencies. Under the current Data Use Agreement, HHS can share the personal information with other federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, which could use the data to target undocumented immigrants.
“All people, including immigrants, deserve to access the COVID-19 vaccine without fear or reservation of having their personal identification information shared with non-health-related federal agencies,” Meng said. “Sharing this data will instill fear in our immigrant communities, and deter immigrants from being vaccinated. Providing the vaccine must be free of politics, and we urge that revisions be made so that it is not mandatory for states to collect and share vaccinated individuals’ personal identifiable information with the federal government. I await a response to our letter.”
The correspondence was signed by a total of 48 members of Congress.
“Already too many undocumented immigrants and those in mixed status families avoid accessing healthcare and needed government services because they fear doing so will reveal their status and upend their lives,” said Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation. “At a time when we need complete public confidence and participation to finally end this pandemic, our public health agencies and political leaders must send a clear signal that no one has anything to fear from the COVID-19 vaccination program. A failure to revise the Data Use Agreement will result in lower rates of participation in immigrant communities and undermine the success we all seek.”
Meng wrote in the missive, “As we continue our fight against this highly contagious and invisible enemy, we must keep in mind that immigrants make up a disproportionate number of essential workers who risk their own lives to save lives, keep our cities running, and ensure Americans have access to food. With record-breaking numbers of new COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and more projected through this holiday season, we urge you to swiftly make the necessary changes to the Data Use Agreement, so that all people – regardless of background and immigration status – will access the vaccines without fear or reservation. We look forward to hearing from you by Wednesday, December 9, 2020 on this urgent matter.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, joined by numerous advocacy organizations, also sent a letter to Secretary Azar expressing the same concerns, Meng noted.