Two detained children died in part from the flu in the months after Customs and Border Protection officials rejected a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control last year to vaccinate kids and families in their custody, The Washington Post reports. When border officials ignored the advice, an 8-year-old child had already died in custody, and they would continue to ignore the advice even as more children were to die on their watch.
“The CDC recommendation was revealed in a letter from the agency to Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the CDC,” The Post reported. “The agency’s director, Robert Redfield, issued the letter Nov. 7 in response to questions DeLauro posed last month after the flu had taken a toll on migrants in U.S. custody during the past year.”
Autopsy reports found that 2-year-old Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, and 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez all died wholly or in part of the flu. Carlos died alone in a Border Patrol cell. In video reviewed as part of his autopsy, the boy “is seen lying on the floor, vomiting on the floor, and walks over to the commode, where he sits and later lies back and expires.” His death made him the fifth child to die after being taken into federal immigration custody since December 2018.
These deaths have been unprecedented—two migrant children, including Wilmer, died within the span of a week after being taken into custody this past May—yet border officials have continued to resist calls from medical professionals to vaccinate families in time for 2019’s flu season, even after a group of doctors volunteered to do it for free. "We're disappointed and frustrated," said Dr. Luz Arroyo, a member of Doctors for Camp Closure. "But we're not going to give up that easily and will continue to request access."
In just one damning report, government investigators noted witnessing dire, filthy conditions at a number of border facilities this past June, finding some detained children who had been jailed for as long as two weeks—in violation of policy dictating that kids shouldn’t be held in these cold and inhumane facilities for longer than 72 hours—and some detained adults who had not been able to shower for a month. Keep in mind that one excuse given for why border officials aren’t providing flu shots is “the short-term nature of CBP holding.” Lies, and these lies are killing.
“The refusal to vaccinate children in detention camps will have devastating consequences. Let the doctors do their jobs,” tweeted Families Belong Together. “CDC’s recommendations are clear,” Rep. DeLauro said. “Flu vaccines should be administered to people as soon as possible to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Worse still, administration policies that kept families locked in cages for extended periods of time greatly increased their risk of illness.”