Cuomo attempting to establish identity protection for future COVID vaccine recipients

Photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Health
Clinical specimen testing for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratory.
In an attempt to protect immigrant communities in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter on Nov. 2 to President Trump, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. This past week, the CDC had states sign a Data Use Agreement, which would require every state to document personal information of every person who receives a vaccine: their name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, race and sex, and share it with the federal government. Each person who receives the vaccine will also be tagged with an ID number, such as their driver’s ID, social security number or passport number. In his letter, Gov. Cuomo questioned why people who get a COVID-19 vaccine must provide an identification number, and asked the federal administration to confirm “no personal identifiable information will be used for non-public health related purposes or provided to any non-public health agency such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” according to a press release from his office. Gov. Cuomo says the agreement states that the personal information regarding people who receive a COVID-19 vaccine, will only be “used by the CDC, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and ‘other federal partners.’” “My concern is that this information, without proper safeguards, could be used by non-health related agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement in furtherance of this administration’s anti-immigrant policies and its relentless pursuit of undocumented people,” Gov. Cuomo said. Cuomo was referencing issues that arose earlier this year between New York and the federal government regarding the Green Light Law, a law allowing noncitizens to receive driver’s identification cards, and New York losing Trusted Traveler status. In addition to the federal government confirming that the personal information of vaccine recipients will be secured under HIPPA, Gov. Cuomo added that this information must also not be used for any “profit-making or more pernicious purpose, nor will it be left unguarded and subject to diversion or cyberattack.” It is clear that in order for the vaccine to be efficiently administered to New Yorkers, their information must be secured and in the hands of trusted officials, with confirmation shared with the governor’s office.