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ID requirement discourages COVID-19 vaccinations | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., left, gets a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine shot from Health Officer Gregory William Branch, right, at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium after providing an update on the county's overall vaccination efforts in March. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun).
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., left, gets a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine shot from Health Officer Gregory William Branch, right, at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium after providing an update on the county's overall vaccination efforts in March. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun). (Kenneth K. Lam)

Earlier this year, Maryland was off to a slow start with its vaccination implementation and trailed most other states with distributing its weekly allotment of vaccines. However, vaccinations have picked up significantly within the last month or two with the state at parity with the vaccination averages across the country (”Maryland’s COVID positivity rate dips below 4% as 1.9 million are fully vaccinated,” April 28). However, there are concerns of reports of slowing vaccinations rates, and it may be partially attributed to the unnecessary requirement of a state issued ID to enter state run vaccination sites.

On my first vaccination appointment, I was momentarily barred entry from the Timonium Fairgrounds vaccination site by a sheriff until I could produce my state-issued ID, which was a driver’s license. This was, perhaps, an initial precaution to ensure that younger people weren’t jumping ahead of older people in getting vaccinated. However, once other groups were permitted and eventually all people over age 16 eligible, this seemed an odd requirement. In addition to this being a bit intimidating for people who may be undocumented, millions of American citizens over the age of 18 also lack government-issued licenses or photo identification. This group may include the elderly, disabled, homeless, poor, college students, urbanites without need of a car, etc.

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According to separate studies by the Brennan Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, approximately 11% of adult Americans lack a government-issued ID. That estimate doesn’t include the portion of the estimated 11-to-13 million undocumented immigrants in the United States who may also lack a government-issued ID. Further, 15% of 17-to-20-year-olds and 11% of 21-to-24-year-olds lack any photo ID. So if our vaccination efforts are flagging, I suggest we carefully examine barriers to vaccination. It may not simply be that people don’t have a car to drive to the vaccination site, they may not be allowed in without a license for a car they do not have.

The purpose of a driver’s license is to drive a motor vehicle. We shouldn’t need it to get vaccinated. In the wise words of Angie, the health care worker I spoke to at Timonium Fairgrounds, all she needs is an arm.

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Marie LaPorte, Reisterstown

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