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UT Rio Grande Valley Apologizes For Turning Away Two People Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccinations

A delivery truck arrives at the front of the UT Health Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine campus, right in front of the campus sign.
UT Health Rio Grande Valley Instagram
The UT Health Rio Grand Valley School of Medicine campus was made a COVID-19 vaccine distribution site in December. The health system apologized for denying vaccines to two people who were undocumented immigrants.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is apologizing for turning away two people eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations on Saturday because they were undocumented immigrants.

On Feb. 21, it posted a statement on Twitter. UT Health Rio Valley, the clinical practice of the university, stated it “apologizes to those patients who were affected” and “did not follow the most current State of Texas guidelines.”

Proof of residency and citizenship is not required to get the vaccine, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services — and is stated in guidance on the agency’s website. UT-RGV spokesperson Patrick Gonzalez confirmed the university did not follow state protocol.

Abraham Diaz, who lives in San Juan, said his father was one of the people turned away father. Diaz said he couldn't provide a social security number. Diaz tweeted about the experience on Feb. 20.

Diaz said his dad called him upset and embarrassed after waiting in line for four hours at the UT-RGV vaccine clinic, only to be wrongly told by a person working there he was not eligible for the shot.

“[Dad] said that [the health worker] told him in front of everybody, ‘you don’t have a social, so we can’t help you at all. And it’s only for U.S. citizens,’" said Diaz.

The Rio Grande Valley is located near the U.S.-Mexico border and is a majority Hispanic region with a large number of undocumented and mixed-status families.

The University is working to reschedule individuals wrongly turned away from getting the vaccine.

NPR's Malak Gharib contributed to this story.

Corrected: February 23, 2021 at 5:49 PM CST
This story was updated to clarify that Abraham Diaz's father was turned away from a vaccine clinic because he couldn't provide a social security number.