Not Vaccinating Migrant Children Is 'Unconscionable'

Paul A. Offit, MD


September 06, 2019

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hi. My name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Recently, the US Customs and Border Protection agency has made the decision not to give an influenza vaccine to migrant children who are in their care, detained at the southern border.

This decision is unsupportable for several reasons. First, influenza is a common illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that last year, in the United States, influenza accounted for 37-43 million cases, which led to 17-20 million doctor visits, 647,000 hospitalizations, and 61,000 deaths.[1]

Second, there is a vaccine to prevent this. It is typically 40%-60% effective, which can have a tremendous impact on hospitalizations and deaths when you're talking about this kind of burden of illness.

Third, these children who are detained at our southern border are especially vulnerable because they're in crowded conditions where there is often poor sanitation and poor hygiene. Also, they are more likely to be less well nourished and are therefore especially susceptible to being overwhelmed by this particular virus.

Fourth, these children are all in one place, which actually makes it much easier to give them a vaccine than if you're trying to do this in a physician office. They're all there and thus much more easily vaccinated.

The decision by the US Customs and Border Protection agency is unsupportable. When you're choosing to care for these children, you should care for them. The decision that they've made is unconscionable. Thank you.

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