Historically, the undocumented have been one of the most excluded sectors from access to health services in the United States and, with the new COVID-19 vaccine, the situation is likely to remain the same - or worsen. After almost a year of isolation measures, an economic crisis that worsened inequality between social classes and the death of almost two million people around the world, the arrival of a vaccine that could control the worst health crisis in recent history is extremely hopeful.
The expectation is that most people will be able to get the vaccine, which ideally would lead to collective immunity, which sounds simple but is actually a road full of complications. After the authorization and beginning of the application of the Pfizer vaccine in the United States, one of the most relevant questions that has arisen is what will happen to our undocumented immigrant communities? Immigrants have played an indispensable role during the pandemic in essential service work such as care and food, without which the neighboring country would not have sustained itself. In this case, their inclusion in the political community is also a public health issue.
During this pandemic, violence has become evident in the exclusion of certain sectors of the U.S. population that have been left out of basic health care. This is the case of illegal migrants, of whom it is estimated that almost 50 percent are of Mexican origin - in this case, the lack of health insurance is just the tip of the iceberg of the problem. The threat of deportations and family separations plays a major role here, as there is a strong concern that the vaccine could make it easier for immigration officials to target them, which in turn could make illegal migrants unwilling to get vaccinated.
While guidelines for implementation have not yet been established, and while vaccine distribution is a state's jurisdiction, some Trump Administration officials have suggested that information such as birth dates and driver's license numbers could expedite vaccine distribution.
In the face of this problem, several institutional proposals have been put on the table, from the opposition of many governors, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo - who has said that his state will not require personal data as a requisite - to the proposal of New York assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who wants the state to provide a vaccine at no cost to all New Yorkers, including those who are not U.S. citizens.
This is a case where the logic of rights has to be imposed as effectively universal in order to have an effective and efficient vaccination policy. In this case, the inclusion of all people without discrimination by gender, social class, or immigration status is fundamental in order not to compromise the health of the entire country. And this is where the disposition of undocumented Americans is fundamental. The institutional strategy will not be sufficient if it does not walk hand in hand with organizations and leaders of migrant communities that can communicate a message of trust and socialize information; the policy will have to be adapted to immigrant communities, with a variety of languages and, above all, generating trust in medical personnel, who must be separated from any police intentions. In this and other aspects of public policy, without social protection, even individual well-being becomes fragile.
Article originally published by Milenio.
Related video: Learn about a fever clinic in Baja California