Texans don't need to prove they're eligible to get a COVID vaccine. Here's why.

Sabrina LeBoeuf
Austin American-Statesman

Before Texans in groups 1A, 1B and 1C finally reach the point where they can roll up their sleeve and get the COVID-19 vaccine in their arm, they have to make an appointment and often times wait in line. But there's no step or checkpoint before vaccination that requires proof of eligibility. 

With many folks skipping the line to get their vaccine before their turn, it begs the question—why aren't vaccine providers requiring proof of eligibility to make sure vaccines are going to prioritized individuals?

For starters, the Texas Department of State Health Services wants to keep it that way. In their Guidance for Vaccine Provider HUBs, lucky number seven on the list is, "DON'T require documentation of medical condition. Self-disclosure is sufficient." 

Hundreds of people with appointments wait in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Gregory Gymnasium on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The guideline goes hand in hand with its counterparts, which ask vaccine providers not to limit vaccine eligibility by location, race, ethnicity or income level. The DSHS does not want any vaccines to be wasted. If there is no one in the priority groups available for an expiring vaccine, providers are instructed to "vaccinate any willing person rather than let it go to waste."

"We don’t want to create barriers that would prevent people from getting vaccinated, and every person who is vaccinated slows the spread of the disease and relieves pressure on the hospital system," said Lara Anton, a spokesperson for Texas Department of State Health Services.

Vaccine providers can check medical records if they have access, according to Anton. Otherwise, folks should not need to bring any kind of medical record to receive a vaccine. Austin Public Health's policy does not even want to ask for identification when it comes to vaccine appointments so immigration status is not a deterrent. Rather, they accept any individual who, according to the registration questionnaire, qualifies for the vaccine.

"Our hope is that individuals are truthful and are not line jumping to help us ensure the most vulnerable members continue to have access to the vaccine," an Austin Public Health spokesperson said.

Outside of Texas, there's the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal statute that works to protect people's health information. With COVID-19 scheduling apps and websites, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had to lighten some restrictions to allow them to function without penalty. In doing so, they still recommend scheduling sites and applications to take in as minimal protected health information as possible in addition to other safeguarding measures. 

So far, roughly 4.5 million Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which translates to about 15% of the state's population.