Tennessee Says It Won’t Track Immigration Status For Vaccinations

Feb 7, 2021

Early in the pandemic, data collection from COVID-19 testing sites, like this one at Meharry Medical College, was also a concern among immigrant advocates.
Credit Stephen Jerkins | WPLN

Whether someone is in the country legally will have no bearing on whether they get a COVID-19 vaccine in Tennessee, says the state’s health commissioner.  

Dr. Lisa Piercey says people also don’t have to show what county they live in, or for that matter, that they’re a resident of Tennessee. 

“We are not denying vaccine to anyone who shows up at our site and is in phase,” she tells WPLN News. “This is a federal resource, and if you’re in this country, then you get a vaccine.”

There was hesitation among some undocumented immigrants about COVID testing for fear identifying information would be shared with law enforcement – and in some cases it was. Piercey says she expects similar hesitancy with vaccinations, so she says local health departments will work with trusted community groups to vouch for the process or even administer the shots.

 

“We understand there might be some trepidation when you come to a governmental agency,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be the state government alone.”

Officials in some states, like Nebraska, have indicated they may exclude noncitizens or put them at the end of the line. But analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that other states, like Arizona, have specifically prioritized undocumented immigrants for vaccination since they have had higher infection and mortality rates from COVID.