The federal government won't give flu shots to migrant families in border detention facilities ahead of this year's flu season, CNBC reports. This goes against direct recommendations from doctors at Harvard and Johns Hopkins, who recently wrote a letter to Customs and Border Protection officials advising that they vaccinate children who are currently being held at the border.
Doctors say that at least three children in these border camps have died, in part, from the flu in the last year alone.
"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," a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman wrote in an emailed statement to The Hill.
This news comes amid a national outcry over inhumane conditions at border detention facilities, as well as the practice of separating children from their families that was executed under President Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Prior to these deaths, the U.S. had gone almost a decade without a single child death under U.S. immigration custody.
"When I learned that multiple children had died in detention from potentially preventable causes, it truly disturbed me," Harvard pediatrics professor Dr. Jonathan Winickoff said in an email. "The country needs urgent answers to that question so that children stop dying in detention." Winickoff signed the letter that was sent to CBP, along with forensic pathologist Judy Melinek, and Johns Hopkins public health professors Dr. Paul Spiegel and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein.
According to these doctors, the death rate in children from the flu in the U.S. is about 1 in 600,000. Thus far, three children out of 200,000 in immigrant detention facilities have died due to flu-related causes.
The letter noted that due to specific circumstances, such as unsanitary conditions and the extremely close quarters in which immigrants detained in U.S. border facilities reside, infectious disease can be spread from person to person very easily. If measures aren't put in place to drastically improve the conditions of these border camps, Dr. Julie Linton, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health, says, more children will die.