The federal government should not use identifying sources like Social Security numbers to track vaccine distribution in the United States at the risk of exposing undocumented immigrants, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said.
Cuomo warned against using identifiers used for citizenship for a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan in a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
President-elect Joe Biden and leaders in Congress also received the letter and dozens of immigration advocacy and civil rights groups signed on to it.
At the same time, Cuomo raised concerns with the lack of access for vaccine distribution for Black and Brown communities in New York. He has raised concerns in recent weeks with the potential of a federal vaccine distribution plan skirting low-income neighborhoods, especially in urban areas.
At the heart of the issue is ensuring as many adults received a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes broadly available likely at some point next year.
"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 the letter. "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."
New York's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to rise on Monday, part of a national resurgence of the pandemic. The state's positive rate in the last day stood at 4.96%, with western New York showing the largest number of COVID cases. Sixty-six people were confirmed to have died of the virus in the last day.
Cuomo in a conference call with reporters on Monday morning also urged the federal government to provide more funding for COVID vaccine distribution to state governments, saying their finances will likely make it difficult for them to do so.