Doctor reacts to death of migrant teen: This shouldn’t happen in US

Doctor reacts to death of migrant teen: This shouldn’t happen in US
Copyright 2019 CNN

A doctor arrested for protesting border patrol’s refusal to vaccinate migrants for the flu says, “a healthy 16-year-old should not be dying of the flu in 2019, especially in a first world country like the United States of America.”

Last year, three migrant children died from the flu while in Custom and Border Protection’s custody, and this year’s flu season is already underway.

Nearly a year ago, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended to CBP that it vaccinate migrants and take other flu-fighting steps, such as isolating migrants who are suspected of having the flu, monitoring them closely and giving them anti-viral medications.

Last week at a news conference, US Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said while his agency won’t vaccinate migrants, it had complied with “a lot” of the CDC’s recommendations to curtail the flu. He did not offer details.

Dr. Mario Mendoza, a member of Doctors for Camp Closure, is working to reverse Custom and Border Protection’s decision not to vaccinate migrants against the flu.

The group, which has about 2,000 physician members, outlined a plan to first vaccinate 100 migrants, and then to expand to vaccinate the majority of migrants.

“The CDC recommends vaccination for the flu for anyone 6 months or older,” Mendoza said Tuesday on “Anderson Cooper Full Circle.”

“In the case of a 16-year-old, they are not at risk, meaning they just needed mild supportive care and that is fever control with antipyretics. They needed hydration, whether oral or IV and that’s about it. And so this was really a preventable death.”

Mendoza was referring to a sick Guatemalan boy who died in government custody.

The boy, identified by a US Customs and Border Protection official as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, 16, died on May 20 at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, days after he crossed into the US and was apprehended by immigration officials, CBP said.

The boy was waiting to be transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department, as is customary for unaccompanied minors, when he was diagnosed with the flu and taken to the Weslaco facility, the CBP official said.

The CBP has offered two main reasons why it does not vaccinate migrants against the flu, despite the outbreaks.

First, CBP says it won’t vaccinate because migrants are typically held in the agency’s custody for three days or less, and that migrants will receive vaccinations later if they’re sent on to the custody of other federal agencies.

“Every effort is made to hold detainees for the minimum amount of time required for their processing, transfer, release or repatriation as appropriate and operationally feasible,” according to a CBP statement.

The issue came to a head last week when the Department of Homeland Security arrested six members of Doctors for Camp Closure who were protesting outside a CBP office in California.

The doctors had volunteered to vaccinate migrants for free, but CBP refuses to have anyone — its own doctors or others — vaccinate migrants against the flu.

“Allow us to take away the burden from CBP if you can call it that and not administer the flu vaccine themselves, but a group of doctors can come in, work along side CBP and administer these flu vaccinations in a timely cost effective manner,” says Mendoza. “We can prevent the prevalence of flu infection in the detention center and its spread.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield contributed to this report.