By Rachell Sanchez-Smith
For many undocumented people without photo identification, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine comes with more obstacles.
Undocumented people, particularly in the Latinx community, are wary about getting vaccinated for fear of being asked to disclose their immigration status or other personal information, or that vaccine clinic staff would ask for photo identification. But those fears are unfounded, said Danyelle McNeill, the public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas. Vaccine clinics are not mandated to require photo identification, she said. Vaccine clinics are required to ask for a patient’s age, she added.
This issue is potentially contributing to stark inequities in vaccination rates in Arkansas. About 74% of the white population is at least partially immunized, compared to 6% of the Hispanic population, according to ADH data from June 2. Hispanics make up 7.8% of the total Arkansas population, according to a 2019 population estimate by the Census Bureau.
While vaccine clinics often take routine demographic and certain personal information, these databases are not shared with any executive agencies. Amanda Echegoyen, director of operations for the Community Clinic, a Springdale-based nonprofit healthcare clinic with over 13 clinic sites in Northwest Arkansas, said her clinic only takes essential information from patients.
“We do require some basic information. Like your name, your date of birth, your address, your phone number, and we are going to ask you a couple of questions about your health history to determine if you should receive the vaccine,” Echegoyen said.
Patient information is also protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and medical privacy regulations that inhibit medical providers from sharing private patient information, such as immigration status and personally identifying information.
“We cannot disclose that information,” said Echegoyen.
In addition to a general fear of divulging personal information, there is distrust between minority communities and medical clinics due to the history of institutionalized inequities in the healthcare system. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this distrust has been considered a risk factor.
The pandemic, and now the fight to vaccinate the public, has highlighted long-standing inequities that exist in healthcare for minority communities.
“Getting vaccinated is not a cause of anxiety. That is, people have to protect themselves, and it is the best way to protect yourself and your family as well,” said Echegoyen.