All immigrants are approved to get the Vaccine, but identification requirements make it difficult (or impossible) for the undocumented

As most everyone understands the more people who are vaccinated the safer everyone will be. Dr. Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health advised “Nobody will be safe until everybody’s vaccinated, and that includes everyone, regardless of immigration status” Getting immigrants vaccinated should be a priority especially considering that many immigrants work in essential services that we all depend upon. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)issued the following statement on Feb. 1st:

“DHS and its Federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. …DHS encourages all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible under local distribution guidelines.”

There have been reports of disinformation campaigns to scare undocumented people but DHS, in its February statement, indicated that no enforcement operations would be conducted at or near vaccine distribution sites consistent with the “Sensitive Locations” policy.  

So how is this working in Florida?  It is not surprising to hear that it is not working well. Florida requires vaccine recipients to show a valid Florida Driver’s license or U.S. government- issued photo identification, a utility bill in the name of the recipient with a Florida address or a long-term lease. Many undocumented people have been turned away from the vaccine sites because they do not have these documents and cannot get them. The Miami Herald recently reported that The Guatemalan-Maya Center, a nonprofit that has assists migrant families in Florida reached an agreement with the Palm Beach County Health Department allowing members to get the vaccine by showing verification of identity from them.  

The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade indicated that it was planning outreach vaccination efforts to the undocumented community but that specifics on what identification will be accepted have “not been ironed out” According to the Miami Herald, The Florida governor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on vaccine access for the undocumented. My question for the Florida Department of Health and the Governor is – what are you waiting for?  Our Covid case counts are among the highest in the country and going up. It is a public health imperative to ensure that all those living in Florida have access to the vaccine. The Florida Department of Health could easily waive the identification requirements or make it clear that the providers should show significant flexibility in the documentation required. A group of lawmakers have recently urged Governor DeSantis to work with the Florida Department of Health to remedy this and create flexibility in Florida’s residency requirements. The rules set up for our snowbirds are keeping vulnerable undocumented people from obtaining the vaccine and thus making all of us more at risk.  Perhaps a lot of calls to the Governor will help.

Linda M Kaplan
Latest posts by Linda M Kaplan (see all)