On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his top concerns for federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the entire U.S. experiences another wave of cases.
At this point, he says the federal government has not done enough. There were three concerns in his announcement, which came during a call with press.
First up was funding. Governor Cuomo said not enough funding has been provided to states yet to execute the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fueling ongoing budget concerns at the state level, Cuomo says adding this burden onto the plates of states is not fair to those taxpayers.
He wrote a letter to federal officials, as well as President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, which can be read in-full below:
Dear Secretary Azar:
We write to bring attention to a very important issue concerning the upcoming vaccination process.
Obviously, a successful program administering the vaccine is critical to the national health. But for the vaccination program to be successful, it must have the full participation of all the people in the United States. To that end, we join with Governor Cuomo in raising concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the current federal vaccination program.
First, we are deeply troubled by the failure of the federal vaccination program to provide the states with adequate funding to undertake effective vaccination plans for the Black, Brown, Asian and lower-income communities that are underserved by private healthcare facilities. The COVID infection and death rates are significantly higher in these communities, and failure to provide these communities with an adequate vaccination program, whether by intent or effect, will further discriminate against these communities. We join with national civil rights groups such as the National Urban League and the NAACP in calling for a federally funded fair and equal vaccination program.
Second, the federal government requires that a Data Sharing Agreement be executed by state governments before commencing the vaccination program. The current Data Sharing Agreement provided by the federal government requires identification of each person who is vaccinated – the federal government suggests that states use Social Security numbers, driver’s license identification numbers, or passport numbers to fulfill this requirement.
This provision obviously raises concerns, as the proposed criteria are all proxies for proof of citizenship. The concern is exacerbated by an additional federal provision in the Data Sharing Agreement specifically providing that the information could be shared with other federal agencies, i.e. the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If undocumented Americans are dissuaded from participating in the vaccination program, it would jeopardize both their health and the efficacy of the entire vaccination program.
New York State has proposed two clarifications or modifications to address the issue. First, New York will provide an identification system to effectively track vaccinated individuals and the required dosages that does not identify to the Federal government an individual’s Social Security number, passport number, or driver’s license number. The state will provide aggregate data. In addition, the Federal government must agree to keep vaccination identification information private as with any other health matter, and agree not to share it with any non-health agency for any other purpose.
It is in everyone’s interest for all of us to work together to encourage our respective constituents to participate in the vaccination program. Outreach efforts to Black, Brown, Asian and low-income communities is essential. Further, it is certainly not in the national interest for individuals to have valid concerns preventing such participation, and the undocumented community has specific and valid cause for concern in providing unnecessary, irrelevant, and sensitive information to federal agencies.
We look forward to working together to organize a fast and effective vaccine program to ensure the national health. Thank you for your consideration, cooperation, and courtesy.
He also expressed concern about the rollout of vaccines to black and brown communities. These communities are often underserved by healthcare facilities, and the goal at the federal level, Cuomo says, should be ensuring that distribution happens in these communities at an equitable rate to others.
“This hurts all New Yorkers and Americans, because the vaccination program only works if you have a very high percentage of participation,” said Cuomo. “And with this plan, you are eliminating and dissuading groups from participating, and that hurts all New Yorkers. White, Black, Brown, any ethnicity or race.”
Cuomo is also concerned about the tracking methodologies of the federal government for vaccine distribution. He claimed on Tuesday that an agreement would be required, which would mean personal information – like a social security number or driver’s license number would be used. Cuomo says he’s concerned this is a tactic to target undocumented immigrants.