But three subject medical experts who are contracted with the Department of Homeland Security and represented by the Government Accountability Project say the administration isn’t doing enough to vaccinate immigrants in detention.
“The Biden administration has made great strides in controlling the pandemic in many areas of the country, largely by concentrating on vaccine distribution to the general public. Immigrant detention settings, however, continue to be a significant source of spread for COVID and disproportionate harm to detainees, workers and the public, yet DHS has still not implemented a comprehensive plan to address the spread of COVID in immigration detention facilities,” reads the letter, directed to committee leadership in Congress.
In a statement to CNN on Friday, ICE said it’s working with federal partners to receive its own allocation of vaccines “for immediate, nationwide distribution and anticipates receiving additional vaccines in the future.”
“As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s vaccination efforts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is further expanding its vaccination efforts to include voluntary vaccinations for individuals in its care and custody,” the agency said.
There are more than 26,000 immigrants in ICE custody, as of June 18.
The administration has launched plans to vaccinate unaccompanied migrant children who fall under the custody of the Health and Human Services Department.
“We are working site by site to ensure that the Covid vaccine is also made available as part of that suite of medical care to every eligible child,” JooYeun Chang, acting assistant secretary for HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, told lawmakers during a House panel earlier this month.
In internal guidance obtained by CNN, the HHS office charged with the care of unaccompanied migrant children cited US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that all people 12 and older receive the Covid-19 vaccine. That includes children in the department’s care.
Allen, McPherson and Rich — the three medical experts who wrote to Congress — say in their letter that they have not seen a “comprehensive and appropriately aggressive” plan.
“The current plan of leaving vaccination procurement for individuals detained by ICE to local health authorities obscures lines of responsibility and is likely to fail,” the letter continues.
Only a limited number have been vaccinated, in part because of the differing priority guidance across states, Johnson, the acting ICE director, told lawmakers in May.
“Because of that sort of variance, we have been looking at working with CDC and HHS to just see if we can get our own batch of vaccines, deploy them across the country to the ICE detainee population,” Johnson said. As of May 5, some 2,707 detainees had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 1,229 were fully vaccinated, he said in testimony.
Rich underscored the urgency behind vaccinating detained individuals, given the risk of spread.
“It just makes common sense,” he told CNN. “It’s unconscionable not to do it.”
Source: CNN – US News