Fact check: People will not have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to receive food stamps and rent assistance

Social media users are sharing posts, claiming that food stamps and rent assistance will be withheld from those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. However, the report on which these claims are based says that COVID-19 vaccines could be given out at the same time as food and rent assistance, not that receiving the assistance would be contingent on being vaccinated. The lead authors of the report confirmed to Reuters that they do not advocate social supports being withheld in connection with vaccination status.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The posts ( here   ,  here  ,  here ) say, “Food stamps, rent assistance may be withheld from those who refuse Covid19 vaccinations”, which is the headline of an article on a site called Sandra Rose ( ), to which some of the posts also provide a link. When speaking about food assistance, the Sandra Rose article refers to both food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) ( ).

As “evidence” the article links to a report published in July 2020 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and written on behalf of the “Working Group on Readying Populations for COVID-19 Vaccines” called “The Public’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccination: Planning Recommendations Informed by Design Thinking and the Social, Behavioural, and Communication Sciences.” ( here )

The report considers human factors in relation to vaccines against COVID-19 and provides recommendations on how to improve public understanding of, access to and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Sandra Rose article claims, “The [Johns Hopkins] document says “bundling” vaccines with food stamps would be, “a way to build trust” among low-income people such as “Blacks and minority communities.”

Under its “action items” for Recommendation 3 “Making Vaccination Available in Safe, Familiar and Convenient Places”, the document says that vaccination could be bundled with other safety net services, mentioning “food security”, “WIC” and “rent assistance”, but it does not say that receiving these services should be contingent on having been vaccinated: “Bundling services (eg, food security, rent assistance, free clinic services) that are already being provided to particularly vulnerable populations in the context of COVID (eg, older adults, low-income adults, Black and minority communities) could be a way to build trust and streamline vaccine provision.” ( here )

In the best practices section of the Center for Health Security report it also says that vaccine services could be provided at WIC clinics, but does not mention mandatory vaccination as a condition for receiving support: “Clinical sites that already serve vulnerable or underserved populations (eg, WIC clinics, federally qualified health centers, STD clinics, substance use treatment centers) should also be explored as potential sites for co-locating vaccine services.” ( here )

The sections quoted above are the only mentions of the WIC, food and rent assistance in the report. Nowhere in the report does it suggest that COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for those receiving food and rent assistance.

The lead authors of the report, Monica Schoch-Spana from the Center for Health Security ( here ) and Emily Brunson from Texas State University ( here ) told Reuters in a statement: “We do NOT advocate that such social supports ever be withheld in connection with an individual’s vaccination status. […] We argue that SARS-CoV-2 vaccines should NOT be mandated. […] We recommend that one option to make vaccination more accessible, particularly to poor groups, is to provide vaccination at places where these individuals already go such as WIC clinics and food banks.”

COVID-19 vaccine developers Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have indicated in the second week of November 2020 that their vaccines are over 90% effective ( here ) and on Nov. 20 Pfizer Inc said it will apply to U.S. health regulators for emergency use authorization, becoming the first company to do so ( here ).


False. As the Center for Health Security report says, and the lead authors confirmed to Reuters, the report is not advocating that receiving these safety net services should be contingent on having been vaccinated against COVID-19.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .