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COVID vaccine for undocumented immigrants proposed

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-New York City, wants the state to provide a COVID-19 vaccination at no cost to all New Yorkers — including those who aren’t U.S. citizens.

Rosenthal recently introduced A.11175 in the state Assembly to require the state cover the cost of a COVID-19 vaccination for any state resident who can’t receive one for free under existing federal programs.

“Recent reports have suggested that the vaccine will be made available for free to American citizens, but no plans have been made regarding undocumented New Yorkers, individuals with temporary legal status and others,” Rosenthal wrote. “The COVID-19 vaccine must be available at no cost to all New: Yorkers, regardless of citizenship or health care status. This legislation will require New York state to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all New Yorkers at no cost, regardless of immigration status.”

The legislation comes days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the federal Health and Human Services Department asking for funding to distribute the vaccine to low-income communities underserved by health care facilities and to modify a datasharing agreement that could provide information to several federal departments and keep undocumented immigrants from taking the vaccine.

“It is in everyone’s interest for all of us to work together to encourage our respective constituents to participate in the vaccination program,” Cuomo wrote in his letter to Alex Azar, federal Health and Human Services secretary. “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.”

Rosenthal’s legislation would place the state in the position of providing vaccines to undocumented immigrants, though Rosenthal’s legislation provides no recommended funding amount for the program. That omission could make the legislation a tough sell in the state Legislature and with Cuomo given the state’s budget deficit and the continued uncertainty regarding how much federal money the state could receive if a COVID-19 relief bill is passed by Congress.

The New York City Assemblywoman also recently proposed legislation that would make a vaccine mandatory for state residents, though that legislation also faces certain opposition in both chambers of the legislature.

President-elect Joe Biden told members of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists earlier this year that undocumented immigrants should have access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and hospitalization, according to The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based news agency.

“Every person in the country, whether they’re documented or undocumented, should have access to a vaccine, if and when it occurs, should have access to testing and treatment and hospitalization if it relates to the virus,” he said during a forum hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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