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San Diego County ID policy makes vaccinating the undocumented harder

On a rainy Saturday morning in March, volunteers with Universidad Popular huddle under a tent outside a vaccine clinic in San Marcos serving cafe de olla and handing out COVID-19 masks and test kits.

They are part of a network of community teams working with the State Department of Health to vaccinate inaccessible populations. Reliable community groups such as Popular Universidad bring people and the county supplies vaccines and medical staff.

But at vaccine clinics in San Marcos and Escondido, supporters of Universidad Popular said San Diego County has made that task more difficult – by requiring a photo ID to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Because that matters

As San Diego County modifies vaccination coverage guidelines and functions, advocates say the photo ID requirements have made it more difficult to vaccinate undocumented people in communities with already low vaccination rates.

Despite state policy that says immigration status does not affect vaccine eligibility, the county requires photo ID and proof of age to receive a vaccine at its clinics, according to policies posted on the county website. This documentation may be more difficult for those who do not have legal status in the US.

County officials have said their policy is to work with people who can not provide a photo ID to find other options for verifying their identity. However, this policy is not published online on the county vaccine information website.

And supporters of Universidad Popular said politics does not always play on the ground.

Asked by inewsource For data on how many people have been removed because they did not provide an ID or were assisted by county staff in finding the appropriate ID, a county spokesman said the county is not monitoring these cases.

Employees at county vaccine clinics have expressed confusion about the county’s identity policy in emails to their superiors asking for guidance on what to do when someone shows up without a photo ID. In these emails, clinic staff reported that some people were being removed from county clinics for lack of identity.

The identity policy has led some people to avoid looking for vaccines altogether, advocates say.

“We have met families who tell us they have stayed away from seeking vaccines because they do not have an identity card,” said Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, co-director and co-founder of Universidad.

“They do not want to show up and be asked to present it and then find themselves in a situation where they are just afraid that the information may be passed on to immigrants or other officials.”

Universidad Popular focuses vaccination efforts on a handful of census departments where residents are among the least vaccinated in the county. These pieces are found in predominantly Latino neighborhoods in upstate San Diego.

Ninez Ponce, Professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public HealthHe said the county photo ID policy and the creepy effect it could have on vaccination rates among undocumented people should be a concern for everyone in the community.

“Refusing a section of our population access to vaccines because of bureaucracy” will not end the pandemic sooner, Ponce said.

La Mirada Academy, one of two counties where Universidad Popular hosts vaccine clinics across the county, borders an inventory of one of the the lowest vaccination rates in San Diego County.

This census road falls to the third percentile of vaccination rates in the county from the end of March, which means that 97% of the county censuses have higher vaccination rates.

About 60% of people over the age of 5 on this street have been fully vaccinated since mid-April. On another nearby street, the vaccination rate is 52%.

Although the county provides only about 10% of the total vaccines given across the county – most other vaccines are now given through local health clinics or private health care providers – Nuñez-Alvarez said there is usually at least one person in each popular clinic Universidad’s vaccines he was disgusted with by county staff because he was unable to provide identification.

“For many of these migrants, especially men, attending a vaccination event is the only and first contact they have had – for many of them ever – with a healthcare system,” said Nuñez-Alvarez. “They come from villages or countries where they never have access to such resources, so even questioning is very intimidating for them.”

The interactions that undocumented people have in vaccine clinics could be what encourage or discourage them from seeking public funding in the future, Nuñez-Alvarez said.

See more

San Diego County guidelines for vaccines online Identify with a photograph and proof of age is required to receive the vaccine. A vaccine information leaflet provides examples such as a birth certificate, driver’s license or passport.

Michael Workman, a spokesman for San Diego County, said the policy is necessary to verify an individual’s identity. But at least one other county in California, Los Angeles County, states online that no photo ID is required at public health vaccine clinics.

When an individual is unable to provide these documents, San Diego County staff will work with a patient to verify his or her identity in order to receive a vaccine, according to Workman.

“If someone does not have an ID, this person is promoted to a supervisor who will help. “A driver (license) from a foreign country, a boss, a salary, another member of the household, a consular card, a previous registration (in the registry) of vaccines” are all acceptable forms of identification, Workman said in an email.

“Only about 7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the county so far and very few cases or complaints,” Workman said.

Emails received from inewsource Recently in February they suggest that the county’s identity policy is causing confusion for vaccine clinic staff.

In January, a clinic employee emailed county health officials, saying, “We’ve had some people say they see ads that say they do not need to be identified for the Covid vaccine and come without an ID.” One supervisor responded, confirming that the county’s policy is to “verify identity” and that “broad” forms of identification are acceptable.

In February, a nurse emailed a supervisor that a patient had appeared on an anonymous photo website.

“[Staff] “Tell her she needed an ID and she got upset and asked to talk to someone else,” the nurse said. “I said we want to work with her and if she has something issued by the government, we can vaccinate her,” the nurse continued.

County officials also asked for clarification of political identity from a state public health official, who said he had heard that some clinics had withdrawn people for “lack of proper identification” and then accepted them “with additional support confirming the form.” “Identification is an acceptable form of vaccination.”

The official also asked for guidance on what help is available for people “who may experience this condition as they progress”.

inewsource visited several county vaccine clinics in March to ask about photo identification policy. A supervisor at a vaccination site in a county said that if patients asked for a vaccine without a photo ID, the county could not vaccinate them, but said she had not heard of anyone being prevented from doing so.

inewsource did not name the supervisor because she said she was not authorized to speak to the media.

Two other clinics he visited in March declined to answer his questions inewsource journalist.

A popular Universidad volunteer directs a resident to the site of the La Mirada Academy vaccination clinic in San Marcos, California. (Brittany Cruz-Fejeran / inewsource)

The Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego worked with the county to establish clinical vaccines and test sites several times a week earlier during the pandemic, resulting in 3,500 vaccines, said Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez.

There were some cases where someone at the consulate vaccine clinic needed help getting an ID to get the vaccine, but overall the identity requirement was not a major obstacle, said González Gutiérrez.

“We encourage people to show up, get vaccinated or get tested safely, with the full conviction that whatever we provide will not put them at risk of an immigration threat.”

However, some Mexican communities in the county were more difficult to reach than others, “especially those who are farm workers, those who work in the fields,” he said.

Lilian Serrano, community educator and co-director at Universidad Popular, said that at every vaccine clinic they have set up with the county, her team fought the staff until they agreed to relax the identity requirement so that someone who showed up without a photo ID to be able to get the vaccine.

“When we have people who do not have an identity, the county staff always removes them,” Serrano said. “It’s almost like a dance we do in every clinic because then the person leaves. Then I go to find out why they remove them. It’s because of the identity. “

Monica Aiken controls Alaska Dey while waiting to make the COVID-19 booster vaccine and the flu vaccine at La Mirada Academy in San Marcos, California. (Brittany Cruz-Fejeran / inewsource)

Serrano then said that she finds the supervisor and explains that “we have a farmer from the Valley Center who went to Escondido, who is a 45-minute drive away, who has not received a single COVID-19 vaccine that he needs. his vaccine and he is right there and willing “.

Ponce, a UCLA researcher specializing in migrant health and global health, said the undocumented community, many of whom were considered essential workers during the pandemic, was at high risk of contracting COVID-19 before vaccines were widely available.

Now, a photo identity policy could have a “creepy effect” on people without legal status who are worried that getting a vaccine could jeopardize their US presence.

And that could mean undocumented people deciding between “vaccines or I might be deported, vaccines or I might lose my job, vaccines or food,” Ponce said. “You give people these very difficult choices.”

Jill Castellano contributed to this story.

Content Type

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the journalist, or reported and verified by knowledgeable sources.

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