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Cuomo blasts Trump’s ‘discriminatory’ COVID-19 vaccine plan, seeks Biden’s help

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

The outgoing Trump administration’s COVID-19 vaccine plan is discriminatory against people of color and undocumented residents of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday — and he’s appealing to incoming President-elect Joe Biden to change it after he takes office.

Cuomo told reporters Tuesday that while vaccination against COVID-19 is “the light at the end of the tunnel,” the Trump regime’s plan for inoculating people against the deadly contagion makes it especially difficult for Black and Brown Americans — the communities hardest hit by the pandemic — to be protected.

The governor said Trump’s plan does not provide funding necessary to conduct outreach programs in Black and Brown communities, such as vaccine drives at churches or public housing, to inoculate as many people as possible.

“I believe that is discrimination, either by intent or by effect, and I believe it is illegal,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “If they don’t have an outreach program, they are furthering the discriminatory and unequal effect of COVID. The death rate was double in the Black community [and] 1.5 times higher in the Brown community. Those are the facts because they had more underlying illnesses, they have less health care services and they received fewer COVID tests.”

Moreover, the vaccination plan from the Trump White House requires states to sign a data-sharing agreement with the federal Department of Health and Human Services focused on the personal information of vaccine recipients. The agreement allows HHS to share that with other government agencies — and Cuomo reads that as meaning such data could wind up in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

That, the governor said, would dissuade undocumented non-citizens from getting the vaccine, out of fear that it could wind up leading to their deportation.

“Deja vu all over again. This is what I went through with them (the Trump regime) on the driver’s licenses and the Trusted Traveler Program,” Cuomo said. “That will dissuade the undocumented community from going near the vaccine. That would then impede the health of the undocumented community, and it would impede the effectiveness of the entire vaccination program.”

Cuomo stressed that the mass COVID-19 vaccination program would only be effective if at least 80% of Americans received it. Any effort to limit the participation of Black or Brown Americans, or undocumented residents, from receiving the vaccine would continue to keep the entire country at risk of COVID-19 infection.

Cuomo signed a letter along with 54 civil rights and immigration rights leaders sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar calling for changes to the current vaccine program that maximizes participation and effectiveness. That letter was also carbon copied to the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and President-elect Biden.

The governor said he’s also seeking greater funding for individual states to help administer the vaccines.

“If you’re not reaching out to Black and Brown communities, and alienating the undocumented community, then you’re making it virtually impossible for this vaccination program to work,” Cuomo said.

He further expressed confidence that Biden and his team “would not stand for this” and would ultimately change the plan, “but they’re not there until Jan. 20.” 

Meanwhile, New York state’s overall infection rate was up to 4.4% as of Nov. 30, with 3,774 people hospitalized statewide. Of those hospitalized, 718 were in intensive care and 348 were on intubation. Sixty-six New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Monday.

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