Robert Fishman was concerned when he went for his COVID-19 vaccine at a Trinity Health Care facility and was asked for identification.
He had an ID, but informed the clinician that people without identification are eligible to receive any of the federally-approved vaccines.
Fishman is the executive director of the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition or CIRC, a group advocating for expanded health care benefits for immigrants and refugees.
“Everybody in the state is supposed to be vaccinated,” Fishman said. “Some of the undocumented residents are not getting vaccinated because they’re hearing you have to show identification. They can’t provide identification, they’re scared and that needs to be corrected.”
As the state opens up vaccine eligibility on April 1 to anyone over age 16, the undocumented population under the age of 45 can already get immunized. The entire 16 and over cohort, estimated at 1.3 million people, is expected to generate 600,000 requests for vaccine appointments in the next several weeks.
On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a $58 million plan to vaccinate people in underserved neighborhoods through mobile vans, door-to-door outreach, and faith-based and community organizations.
“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to make sure that the folks who are most vulnerable get vaccinated, and this is becoming increasingly important as J&J (Johnson & Johnson) and others ramp up the amount of vaccines that are available to us,” Lamont said.
But advocates for undocumented residents fear the identification requirement could prevent thousands from getting the shots.
Leslie Gianelli, a spokeswoman for Community Health Centers Inc., said “to establish residency, we ask for any form of ID a person may have, including a non-drivers ID or work visa.” Community Health Center, which has a location in Meriden, runs mass vaccination sites and pop up clinics throughout the state.
Fishman said the state primarily wants to be certain that the person being vaccinated is a Connecticut resident. But while one person in a family may have a work visa, a spouse or sibling might not, and the issue has led to confusion and avoidance, Fishman said. But the state’s guidelines are clear.
“No person will be turned away based on their ability to show ID” according to the frequently asked questions on the state Department of Public Health’s vaccine web page. ”While sharing your contact information may not be required to get a vaccine, staff at the vaccination site may ask individuals for an ID, but this only applies to people who have one.”
Individuals should bring an ID, if they have one, to verify the name and eligibility information they submitted to the vaccination appointment system, their insurance information if they have insurance, and proof of employment in Connecticut if they work, but do not live in the state.
“Individuals can still get the COVID-19 vaccine without insurance or a state-issued ID,” according to the DPH.
DPH spokeswoman Maura Fitzgerald said this information has been communicated to all vaccine providers repeatedly.
“Vaccines should be administered to any eligible Connecticut resident, even if they do not have a driver's license or other form of identification,” she said. “We have also worked with many of the organizations that serve and work with the undocumented community to get the word out that everyone eligible to get vaccine is encouraged to get the vaccine and no one will be turned away for lack of identification or insurance.”
Fishman feels state and public health officials need to make more of an effort to notify the public they won't be turned away from a vaccine appointment if they lack documentation.
“We’re trying to get the word out to the state they have to do a better job of communicating,” he said.
The April 1 rollout includes 16 and 17 years olds, who must have parental consent to be vaccinated. Only the Pfizer vaccine is medically-approved for those ages, but state officials expressed confidence Thursday they will have enough Pfizer supply.
On Friday, Hartford HealthCare Friday reported no Covid-related hospitalizations of patients who have received the vaccine, leading officials to believe the vaccines are effective against the variants now circulating.