A group of doctors, alarmed that the Trump administration denies flu vaccines to detained immigrants, are urging the Department of Homeland Security to accept its offer to provide free flu shots to detainees in California.
In a November 5 letter, doctors told the administration to reconsider its decision not to vaccinate detainees for influenza despite the deaths of at least three children in CDB custody during the 2018 flu season.
Doctors, members of a recently formed group Camp closing doctors, D4CC, we offered to develop a mobile flu vaccine at no cost to the government at processing and detention facilities in San Hydro, California, Customs and Border Protection.
"We ask you to let our volunteers maintain our flu vaccine clinic," the doctors said in the letter.
Customs and border protection, part of home security, declined the offer. A spokesman who did not want to be named because of the agency's policy said in a statement sent to NBC News that the agency had never administered vaccines and that people were generally not detained for very long.
"As a law enforcement agency and due to the short-term nature of CDB maintenance and other logistical challenges, running a vaccination program is not feasible," the spokesman said.
Although the CDB guidelines recommend keeping people no longer than 72 hours, the agency is keeping people much longer as arrivals of asylum-seeking migrants continued this year, although they have since declined.
In a letter on November 5 to Kevin McLeanen, who was acting director of the Department of Homeland Security and Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, doctors said they would provide 100 doses of flu vaccines and four volunteer doctors to administer them. McCelan resigns, and Jad Wolf is named new acting president. secretary.
"That's how the epidemics start," Dr. Luz Contreras Arroyo, a member of the group and a signer of the letter, told NBC News. "It's not just migrants. The workers will go out into the communities, potentially spreading the virus and it can get out of control. "
"These are people," Arroyo added, speaking of detained families. "They are under the care of the government, most have not committed crimes. Seeking asylum is not a crime. "
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The group set a Tuesday deadline for the administration to respond before announcing the request.
Doctors warn that migrants are not the only people at risk of the disease.
"The flu season has already begun in many parts of the country, so we are writing with urgency," doctors said. "Many people, including those who work and live near CDB facilities, will be at an even greater risk than is typical."
Doctors contributed money and raised more than friends and others to pay for vaccine costs. Doctors are volunteering their time to provide the images, said Arroyo, a family medicine doctor and psychiatrist in Sacramento.
Doctors said they also have a voluntary network of doctors licensed to work in all countries to obtain the necessary vaccines and work with the CDB to "create a system to ensure that the majority of migrant families" held in CDB custody have been vaccinated.
They hope for government funding to help pay for vaccine costs around the world. If not, they will try to find other funding.
'Alarming death rate'
Doctors said that based on about 200,000 children in federal custody over the past two years, the three deaths of detained children attributed to influenza complications are nine times the expected death rate of children with the flu.
"In our expert medical opinion, this alarming death rate is an emergency that endangers the safety of human lives, especially children," said a letter signed by seven doctors.
In August, the CDB announced it would not vaccinate migrant families in its pre-flu care centers. At the time, the agency said in a statement that it had chosen not to provide vaccinations because of the "short-term" stay of immigrants in custody and the complexity of the vaccination program's operation.
But Arroyo said the government had previously carried out large-scale vaccinations and given large quantities of vaccines to prevent the spread of disease and prevent epidemics. She said it was cost effective and lower than the cost of hospitals and ICTs for detainees, staff and residents after they fell ill.
The CDB cells and fence pens of concrete floor chains and maintenance rooms are known to be very cold and are often referred to as hierarchies, which translate into freezers or frosts from those held there, including children for infants.
Health care providers have been protesting for longer periods of detention for migrants, warning that children in particular will face more serious health risks with extended prisons.
Overcrowded conditions exacerbate the risk
Doctors who operate the flu vaccination clinic have found overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the detention facilities of the DCS Inspector General's Office.
That report found that children in some CDB facilities did not have access to showers, did not always have the opportunity to change clothes, and had limited space for medical isolation. At an El Paso facility, a cell was designed to hold 155 adult men with only one toilet and sink, NBC News reported.
The outbreak of the flu at the CDB facility McAllen, has affected nearly thirty immigrants and requires a temporary shutdown.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that anyone over the age of 6 get the flu vaccine by the end of October for the current flu season. Even the Citizenship and Immigration Services Policy Handbook, part of the Department of Homeland Security, notes the CDC's request that immigrants be vaccinated for the flu.
"As doctors, we have seen that the effects of influenza infections are both strongest and most vulnerable, and the results can be devastating," the doctors said.
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