Former President Barack Obama said a lack of legal immigration status is still preventing some individuals from going to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We have communities that are mixed in terms of citizens, non-citizens, sometimes people are very nervous about interacting with government, let's face it, for good reason," Obama said Monday during a discussion about vaccine distribution moderated by actress Eva Longoria. "We've seen in the past and even in the present, folks worried about what their legal status is maybe affecting their willingness to seek out help, and that creates an environment in which it's hard to run some of these campaigns.
"The good news is, is that I know that the Biden administration is committed and HHS has been committed to working with grassroots groups and communities, leaders that are trusted, and making certain that the vaccine is available and accessible to all people, regardless of status."
Obama said vaccine availability is not much of an issue for minority communities anymore.
"Early on, I think, in many communities, not just Latino communities, but also African-American communities, rural communities, sometimes access was an issue — that is much less of the case now," he said. "And pharmacies as well as community outreach centers and so forth are able to provide the vaccine."
During the virtual event, Obama said the U.S. government accelerated the creation of the COVID vaccine and its distribution in record time. The Trump administration created Operation Warp Speed to jumpstart the COVID vaccination process last May.
"This vaccine works extraordinarily well," Obama said. "It has extraordinarily few side effects, relative to previous vaccines, and we got it out in record time. And we now have created a distribution infrastructure that allows us if we choose to have the vast majority of the country protected from the deadliest aspects of this disease."