Refusing flu vaccines to detained children is 'barbaric and nonsensical,' Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said.
Customs and Border Protection is refusing to give the flu vaccine to detained children, even after doctors reported that the flu likely contributed to the deaths of at least three children who were kept in custody by the Trump administration, CNBC reported Tuesday.
The announcement from CBP follows statements from doctors raising concerns that the cramped and unsanitary conditions at detentions facilities "may be amplifying the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases, increasing health risks to children."
"When I learned that multiple children had died in detention from potentially preventable causes, it truly disturbed me," Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a Harvard pediatrics professor who examined the autopsies, told CNBC. "The country needs urgent answers to that question so that children stop dying in detention."
In addition to putting children at risk, denying vaccines to children ignores recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control, which on Friday recommended all children receive the flu vaccine.
"Children ages 4 through 6 need additional doses of some vaccines, as well as a flu vaccine every year," the CDC wrote on Twitter.
The decision by Trump administration officials to deny basic medical care to young migrant children sparked an outcry of opposition from pro-immigrant advocates.
"This is barbaric and nonsensical," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) responded to the news. "Why on earth wouldn't we vaccinate children and families in crowded environments that are clearly at risk for flu epidemics?"
"The U.S. death rate in children from the flu is about 1 in 600,000. So far, 3 children have died out of 200,000 people held at detention facilities along the border," RAICES, a Texas-based organization that helps immigrant families, wrote on Twitter. "Kids are dying from preventable causes. Cruelty is the point."
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president, called the decision to withhold flu vaccines "inhumane."
According to CNBC, CBP defended its decision to deny medical care to children by claiming children are only detained in its custody for a brief period of time. However, many children are held days or weeks longer than they were supposed to be held.
In July, nurses slammed Border Patrol agents for delaying medical care to children. Nurses said children are suffering from severe respiratory distress, dehydration, and fevers that should have received medical attention far before they were transported to hospitals.
Flu vaccines could save lives, but the Trump administration is refusing to choose that option.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.