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COVID-19 vaccine open to anyone who qualifies regardless of legal status

Harris County and community leaders fear undocumented people may be putting themselves at risk by not getting vaccinated.

HOUSTON, Texas — Vaccine distribution is a slow process because quantities are so limited.

People must qualify to get the vaccine right now by meeting specific standards set by the state.

However, their immigration status isn’t one of them.

COVID-19 is a public health crisis that has no boundaries.

“Folks are often asked for proof of their employment for example. We know that healthcare workers fit into 1A, 1B so you may be asked for that,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said last week.

Besides allocating doses of the vaccine to first responders, older people and those with underlying health issues can get the shot.

“Folks are asked to verify their age as well in some ways because over 65 qualifies so that’s the extent to which folks should be asked for information,” Judge Hidalgo said.

Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL, a local immigration rights group, said the Hispanic population in Houston has been hit the hardest during the pandemic.

Espinosa fears undocumented people may be putting themselves at risk.

"Because sometimes people are afraid to engage with any type of government whether it be vaccines or help after a hurricane or food assistance because they fear that they may be questioned about their immigration status,” he said.

As far as the county knows no one is being denied the vaccine if they qualify regardless of their legal status.

“All of us recognize that we’re in this together as a community. The virus doesn’t respect whether you have papers or not. We need to get the entire community vaccinated," Hidalgo said.

Also, Espinosa encourages everyone to protect themselves.

“Because at the end of the day we all want to return to some sense of normalcy and we’re not going to get there if we overlook or not take care of certain sectors of the population,” Espinosa said.