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Camille lives in Baltimore with her 77-year-old mother. (She asked to be identified only by her first name for privacy reasons.) When a nonprofit organization helped her mother get a vaccination appointment an hour away in College Park, Maryland, Camille took time off from work to drive her there. They’d only brought along her mother’s state ID card. But when they went up to the counter at the CVS pharmacy, an employee asked for insurance information and a Social Security number. Camille’s mother, who is from Togo and is seeking asylum in the United States, doesn’t have either of those. Camille said the employee told her they’d have to pay if they wanted a vaccine. I’m A Dad A Grandpa And A Retired Electrician Nothing Scares Me Shirt, hoodie
No one is supposed to be charged for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CARES Act, and immigration status shouldn’t affect eligibility. Many vaccination sites ask for insurance and Social Security information so they can charge administrative fees to insurance companies or the federal government, but those aren’t requirements for being able to get vaccinated.
Camille told the CVS employee she wasn’t going to pay for a vaccine. Her mother, a French speaker who takes weekly English lessons, needed Camille to translate what was happening. “I felt so embarrassed, and my mom also when I was explaining to her,” she said. “She was like, ‘I’m not going to have it because of insurance?’”
Not wanting to drive an hour back without the vaccine, Camille called Tiffany Nelms, executive director of the Baltimore-based nonprofit Asylee Women Enterprise, which had set up the appointment for them. When Nelms asked the CVS employee why they were having trouble getting a vaccine without a Social Security number, the employee “quickly backpedaled,” Nelms said. The staffer told Nelms a supervisor would override the CVS computer system’s request for an insurance or Social Security number.
Nelms said she’s worried about others who have less access to support. “Not everyone has a bilingual relative to go with them who is even comfortable advocating in that way and also has an advocate that’s a phone call away,” Nelms said. “A lot of our clients, especially those who don’t have legal status yet, if they were asked a question like that, they would just leave.”
Camille said she’s thankful her mother got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine so they don’t have to go back to the CVS for a second shot.