New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is urging the federal government to support underserved communities and protect undocumented immigrants as the administration begins to roll out plans toa coronavirus vaccine. Cuomo and a coalition of groups wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for a "fair and equal vaccination program" that reaches these communities.
"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," Cuomo said in a statement. "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."
Cuomo said the federal program requires states to collect and share personal information for those taking the vaccine, which could be shared with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This could dissuade undocumented immigrants from taking the vaccine, he argued.
The letter proposes a modified system that tracks vaccinated individuals but does not reveal private information such as Social Security numbers, passport numbers, or driver license numbers. The letter also demands that the government must agree to keep this personal information private and not share it with any non-health agency.
"Obviously, a successful program administering the vaccine is critical to national health. But for the vaccination program to be successful, it must have the full participation of all the American people. It is in everyone's interest for all of us to work together to encourage our respective constituents to participate in the vaccination program," the letter reads. "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."
Healthcare companies Moderna Inc. and Pfizer have applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of its coronavirus vaccine. In an interview with "CBS This Morning," Azar said the FDA hasan advisory committee meeting for December 10. If approved for emergency use, Azar said "we could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people's arms before Christmas."
As of December 1, the U.S. reported more than 13 million cases of the virus nationwide, with over 266,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.