U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not planning to administer flu vaccines to migrant families in its custody, CNBC reports.
After the flu-related deaths of three migrant children in U.S. detention since last year, Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University doctors earlier this month wrote a letter to Congress calling for an investigation and "timely action," as "poor conditions at the facilities may be amplifying the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases, increasing health risks to children," The Washington Post reported.
But on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told CNBC that "in general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in our custody." The spokesperson said that "medical personnel on site are available 24/7" and that local health systems "may" provide migrants vaccination "if determined necessary."
Harvard's Jonathan Winickoff, one of the doctors who had urged congressional action earlier this month, continued to raise alarms following this news, telling CNBC that poor conditions at overcrowded facilities increase the likelihood of diseases spreading and that "the country needs urgent answers to that question so that children stop dying in detention." Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke out against this report on Tuesday and slammed President Trump, tweeting, "This cannot be America, but for as long as he is president, it will be."
The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has in recent months released reports on "dangerous overcrowding" at border facilities like one in El Paso, which has a maximum capacity of 125 people but was found to be holding 900 detainees. "Corrective action is critical to the immediate health and safety needs of detainees," the report said.