Cuomo Pushes Support for Vaccine in Underserved Areas

 Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a coalition of groups urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar  to support underserved communities and protect undocumented immigrants in the federal COVID-19 vaccination program.

The current federal program lacks funding to strengthen states’ efforts to distribute the vaccine to Black, Brown, Asian and low-income communities which are underserved by private healthcare facilities, Cuomo said.

It also requires states to participate in a data 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. 

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,”  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.”

Text of the letter


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 American people.  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 too often 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.



Governor Andrew M. Cuomo


Guillermo Chacon


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



Beth A. Broadway


InterFaith Works of Central New York


Davon Russell




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


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


Eddia Cuesta

Executive Director

Dominicanos USA (DUSA)


Frankie Miranda


Hispanic Federation


Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Executive Director

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York


Sister Helen Kearney


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


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



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

Hispanic Counseling Center


Ligia Guallpa

Worker’s Justice Project



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


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




Pabitra Benjamin

Executive Director



Jo-Ann Yoo

Executive Director

Asian American Federation


Jacob Dixon


Choice for All


Eileen Torres

Executive Director



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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