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Some Local COVID-19 Vaccination Sites Are Relaxing ID Requirements In Hopes Of Vaccinating More People

STOCK COVID 19 VACCINE
A check in station for the COVID-19 vaccine at the Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Some LA Vaccination Sites Are Relaxing ID Requirements To Get More Shots In Arms

When the vaccine rollout began, doses – and eligibility – were extremely limited. To get a coveted shot, you had to be able to prove that your age or your occupation put you at the highest risk of COVID-19. And that meant bringing along at least a photo ID, and sometimes other documents, too.

Now, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has removed the photo ID requirement for adults seeking a vaccine at one of the vaccination sites it runs. Instead, as long as you’re 18 or older, you will just have to be able to prove that you’re old enough to get vaccinated – so anything with your name and birthday on it should work. You also do not have to prove you live or work in LA County to get vaccinated at a public health site anymore.

(Though if you’re a minor, pay close attention to the fine print: You’ll have to prove somehow that you’re old enough to get vaccinated, and you’ll need a signed consent form. You yourself won’t necessarily have to bring a photo ID, but the adult accompanying you will.)

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Lessen The Stress

Vaccinations have significantly slowed. While the gaps in vaccination rates are improving, disparities still exist. That's why public health officials want to reduce as many barriers as possible to getting more shots into more arms.

Lupe Gonzalez, a project coordinator with the organization Visión y Compromiso, saw the challenges of requiring a photo ID in her work as a promotora – a community member who helps connect neighbors with information and resources they need.

She and her team have been helping people in Southeast Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, connecting them with things like food, masks, training in COVID safety protocols, and more.

And ever since vaccines became available here, she and others like her have been doing what they can to get people living in these hard hit communities vaccinated. Sometimes, that meant getting on the phone and booking appointments on their behalf. Other times, it involved knocking on doors, handing out fliers, answering questions, and responding to concerns.

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One of those concerns: the photo ID requirement. When she or her team would tell people they’d need to bring one to their appointment, they’d ask her, ‘an ID? For what? Why do they want to know who I am or where I live?’

“I think when there's a lot of these different requirements – when they call them like that – it just scares people away,” she explained. “They might not have one of those things. And they might say, ‘Okay, I don't qualify. I can't go get my vaccination.’”

Gonzalez said she’s hopeful removing the photo ID requirement will “lessen the stress” for those considering getting vaccinated.

Disparities In Access

Officials have emphasized you're eligible for the free shots regardless of your immigration status, and that the documents you bring to the vaccination site do not have to be government issued (even something like a Costco card would’ve been worked for the “photo ID” requirement for many public health departments).

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But Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund general counsel and president Thomas Saenz points out that there still may have been disparities in access to such documents.

“I think the assumption that everyone has easy access to a picture ID is really not a fair assumption with respect to many sectors of the community,” Saenz explained.

He, too, sees relaxing the photo ID requirement as a “positive change” that removes a barrier that has been “particularly problematic for the immigrant community,” but warns that it’s still not enough, and that other challenges still exist like limited schedules, transportation, and trust.

“While it is a positive step, it would be better if it had never been a requirement,” Saenz explained. “Because once something is a requirement, even if it's later lifted, it tends to have a life that goes beyond the actual application of the barrier.”

Here’s how other Southern California counties and health departments are handling identification at their vaccination sites.

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Long Beach

The City of Long Beach is asking you to bring “a form of identification with your name on it.” While it can be a photo ID – like a driver’s license or work ID – it does not have to have your picture on it. The city-run sites will also accept a “business card, work ID, library card, letter from your employer or school, bank/ATM cards, electrical bill, matricula consular, paystub, passport, money transfer receipt,” among other documents.

Pasadena

The City of Pasadena does not ask for documentation at the sites it runs, according to spokesperson Lisa Derderian.

“There are also certain segments of our community that do not want to show identification, so we respect that and have done numerous pop-up clinics in targeted areas where they know and trust the venue and coordinators,” Derderian explained.

Orange County

The Orange County Health Care Agency is still suggesting you bring a photo ID that matches the name on your appointment if you can.

But if you can’t, you still have options.

“At least two forms of documents that can link their name and date of birth are also acceptable,” agency spokesperson Ed Mertz said in an email. “The site team is just doing their best to help identify the person, verify the person is the correct age for the vaccine they desire to receive and correctly spell the name on the vaccine record and CAIR (California immunization registry) record.”

Riverside County

We reached out for details and will update if we hear back.

San Bernardino County

Currently, San Bernardino County is asking for something that has both a photo of you and your name on it (again, doesn’t have to be government issued – even a work ID or a Costco card would suffice). You’ll also need proof that you live or work in the county. Public information officer David Wert said the county is being “extremely lenient on proof of this.”

“The county is very concerned about anything that might discourage someone from getting vaccinated,” Wert explained.

Ventura County

The county vaccine website asks you to bring “a form of documentation with your name on it,” though again, it does not have to be government issued. Even a rental agreement or utility bill should work.

You still do need to prove you live or work in the county to get vaccinated in the county, according to spokesperson Ashley Bautista.

“We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated,” Bautista explained.

We also reached out to the California Department of Public Health multiple times for the state’s stance on identification at vaccination sites, but did not hear back.