NORFOLK, Va. — The Latino community is one of the least-vaccinated for COVID-19 in Virginia, and leaders believe many people are hesitant because of their immigration status.
Patricia Bracknell, director of outreach and community development for the Hispanic Resource Center of Coastal Virginia, said she hears the concerns often.
“Is this how the authorities or immigration are going to get me?” she recalled someone asking her.
Can undocumented immigrants register and receive the COVID-19 vaccine? Yes.
Regarding whether you need proof of U.S. citizenship to receive a vaccination, the Virginia Department of Health says, “No. Any person living in the U.S., regardless of duration, is eligible to be vaccinated. Proof of U.S. Citizenship is not required.”
An undocumented person should not fear risk of deportation if registered for the vaccine, according to federal officials.
“DHS and its federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants,” read a DHS memo released Feb. 1, 2021.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics,” the memo continued.
The Hispanic Resource Center has partnered with local churches and businesses to boost communication and trust in the vaccine and to register people in Latino communities. Bracknell said they are able to give undocumented people peace of mind about their registration through a partnership with Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.
“If they don’t want to give an address, they don’t have to give an address,” she said. “If they don’t want to give a phone number, they don’t have to give a phone number.”
So far, the HRC has registered more than 1,000 people. In February, 266 people were vaccinated and 130 more people are scheduled for Wednesday at the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, according to Bracknell.
“We have a lot of community members with underlying conditions, so it is very important that they get the opportunity as everyone else,” she said.
Tuesday, she and other team members will notify people via phone about their upcoming appointment for their first vaccination shots.
Of the number of reported people vaccinated in Virginia, just shy of 50,000 are Latino Americans, according to the state’s COVID-19 data tracker. That’s compared to 633,637 white Americans and 107,503 Black Americans. Asian or Pacific Islanders make up 41,696 people vaccinated.
A published study by the University of Virginia investigating antibodies and herd immunity found Hispanic participants had the highest rate of exposure to COVID-19. The report references “Latinx individuals have been reported to account for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases, including in Virginia, in which they account for 33.8 percent of cases but only 9 percent.”
“They are really those people who are sustaining our communities by working in construction and cleaning and restaurants or any labor force,” said Bracknell.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 13 million non-citizen immigrant workers make up 8 percent of the American workforce. Many of them work as health workers with close contact with patients and in long-term care facilities. The report also states undocumented immigrants account for over one in five (22%) of all food production workers.
It is important for undocumented people in Hampton Roads to be vaccinated because their health impacts the entire community, said Bracknell.
“This is a domino effect,” she said. “We need to make sure we work together to make sure that we all get some kind of protection from the virus.”