Since the Trump administration refused to give detained migrants in Customs and Border Protection custody flu shots ahead of flu season, a team of doctors has volunteered to do it for free. The doctors need access to the detained families—that’s it. Border officials, however, appear set to decline their lifesaving offer.
Members of the humanitarian group Doctors for Camp Closure sent a letter offering to treat an initial group of 100 detained people after officials said this past summer that they would withhold shots ahead of flu season, citing “the short-term nature of CBP holding” and “the complexities of operating vaccination programs.”Lies. Sick children and families have been detained for weeks on end, in unhygienic conditions that are a breeding ground for disease.
The administration has also refused to budge from this position of blocking shots even though at least three children in federal immigration custody have died in part due to the flu. The doctors cited them in their letter, saying their deaths are “9 times the mortality incidence of the general pediatric population. In our professional medical opinion, this alarming mortality rate constitutes an emergency which threatens the safety of human lives, particularly of children.”
It’s not an emergency to federal immigration officials, apparently. A CBP officer told CNN that the agency has not yet responded to the doctors, but “it's not likely to happen. As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”
The Trump administration’s proposal to DNA test thousands upon thousands of migrants who cross the southern border apparently is feasible, but allowing a group of doctors to access detained children and their families to give them free shots apparently isn’t. "We're disappointed and frustrated," said letter signatory Dr. Luz Arroyo. "But we're not going to give up that easily and will continue to request access."
It’s more than clear why this is happening. “It is rare that I pass a day in the office without administering vaccines to a few patients. It’s a process that takes no more than a few minutes, even for the most recalcitrant child,” Dr. Daniel Summers, a pediatrician, wrote in August. “It is not because of insurmountable complexity that the Trump administration is withholding flu shots from detained migrants. It is because they simply do not care to protect them.”