Tucson shelter distributes flu vaccines to migrants

Migrant flu shots Casa Alitas

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - US Customs and Border Protection rejected the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of giving migrants in detention flu vaccinations, according to The Washington Post.

The Post reported that it all came to light in a letter released to Congress.

The letter was reportedly a response to questions Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) posed about how many migrants in U.S. custody got the flu over last year.

A spokesperson for CBP told The Washington Post that the agency has never provided immunizations for detained migrants and has no plans to do so.

In the report, DeLauro said CBPs continuing refusal to provide flu vaccines was “unconscionable.”

Last week, a group of physicians volunteered to vaccinate migrants against the flu for free. A CPB official said "we haven't responded."

Here in Tucson, one migrant shelter is providing the flu shots. Casa Alitas was given doses of the vaccination to distribute in their Pima County shelter, through a federal program that helps vaccinate special populations. The program distributed them last year as well.

They began distributing it the week of Nov. 17.

So far, Casa Alitas Program Director Diego Lopez guesses they have administered over 600 vaccinations to migrants who have come through the shelter. As of Tuesday, they had given out about 43 to the guests that arrived that day.

Volunteer physician Timothy Domer is just one of the many health care professionals who helps give out the shots. He’s been with Casa Alitas since April, helping care to migrants coming from detention. Often times, he said, they’re in rough shape.

“It’s a combination of the environment that they’ve been through, the stress that they’ve been through, inadequate food and water. And for other people having had medications taken away from them," Domer said.

Domer responded to CBP’s decision.

“I know that there’s a lot of discussion, why should they get free health care and that sort of thing," he said. "But if you don’t want to provide healthcare to people, then if they are sick they’re going to be out in the community and you might get sick from them.”

Lopez agreed, adding that protecting the migrants with the vaccine in their shelter, they’re protecting you.

“Families that are coming through here are going to be going across the United States often by planes, trains and automobiles. So, for everyone’s safety, it’s important for them to get these vaccinations. I can see definitely where the CDC is coming from, saying we need to take care of everyone and this is also the greater country as well, by doing this we make sure that less people get sick as well.” Lopez said. "We’re thinking of how we can help these families for the long haul and this is just one example of that here.”

Lopez said the shelter is also looking at expanding its care, to provide basic examinations for children who’ve often never had one.

He said it’s expected to take off next year.

Lopez said the shelter is currently in need of donations as the families are often traveling to colder places. They are in need of winter jackets, girls leggings of all sizes, girls winter tops, maternity clothes and tennis shoes.

The shelter is also accepting tricycles and toy cars for kids.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.