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San Fernando Valley family raising awareness after undocumented mother is refused COVID-19 vaccine

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — A San Fernando Valley son took to social media to detail how his mother – an undocumented immigrant – was turned away from getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is a very big issue because people are not supposed to get rejected from getting the COVID vaccine simply because of being undocumented,” said Sebastian Araujon.

Araujo said a pharmacy employee at a Mission Hills Rite Aid asked his mother for a social security card or other government ID. She provided a foreign consular ID and the pharmacy representative did not accept it.

“Our goal is primarily to ensure that the county or the state, or even the nation in general, that the United States makes sure that undocumented folks have access to vaccine,” said Araujo.

“How many people have gone with the hope of a vaccine and didn’t get it?” said Araujo’s mother, adding she’s sharing her story so others know they have rights.

Rite Aid’s website asks customers to provide a government-issued ID or a social security number when getting a COVID-19 vaccine. But many undocumented immigrants have neither. They cannot receive a social security number and may not get a government-issued ID over immigration concerns.

Rite Aid is part of a federal and state partnership. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance against requiring specific forms of ID, so that people are not turned away.

The CDC states: “Pharmacies will not require proof of age, occupation, or any other type of credentials; however, they will rely on self-attestation for validating group membership. This assures that no one will be turned away for lack of specific identification documents (e.g., driver’s license) and eases the burden on participating pharmacies and individuals.”

L.A. County’s Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said they’re reaching out to the pharmacy this week and reiterated the county’s policy during Monday’s COVID-19 briefing.

“You will not be asked for any proof of your immigration status at all. As a matter of fact, you do not need a government-issued ID to get vaccinated in L.A. County,” said Ferrer.

Rite Aid said in a statement in part: “In this instance, we made a mistake. When a customer arrives for their vaccine appointment, we ask for identification to confirm the customer’s appointment. In the case where a customer does not have identification, we advise our associates not to turn the customer away…”

The pharmacy also said it reached out to Sebastian to have his mother vaccinated.

Eyewitness News pointed out Rite Aid’s website lists a government-issued ID as necessary. We asked how that requirement was determined, if its guidance would be updated, as well as training. We did not receive a response.

L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis called the incident “completely unacceptable” and urged residents with questions to contact the county’s public health call center at 833-540-0473.