Administration officials for President Joe Biden announced a plan on Aug. 3 to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to migrants in custody along the U.S. Mexico border. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has met with resistance from some migrants as they’ve tried to put the plan in place.
According to the Washington Post, the reasoning behind the move is twofold: “Illegal crossings are at their highest levels in over two decades, and health officials are struggling with soaring numbers of infections, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials with knowledge of the plan.”
Previously, only a small number of migrants had received vaccines while in custody at ICE detention facilities. As noted by the Post, “Under the broad outlines of the new plan, DHS would vaccinate migrants soon after they cross into the United States as they await processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”
The article went on to explain that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be used. The vaccine will be administered to those facing deportation as well as migrants likely to be released into the U.S. pending a court hearing. The plan has yet to be officially finalized.
Migrants sent back to Mexico quickly under the Title 42 public health law would not be offered a dose, however, at least during the initial phase of the plan.
U.S. News & World Report’s article added that during the month of July, an estimated 210,000 migrants crossed into the United States along the southern border, which is the highest single-month total in 21 years.
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, called the Biden Administration’s vaccine plan for migrants “a great idea.”
“If they have people under their care and consider part of caring for them making sure they’re immune to the virus, I think that’s responsible,” Offit said. “The advantage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that its single dose is for populations who are transient and less likely to get that second dose, so it makes abundant sense.”
The plan is being somewhat hampered by a number of migrants refusing the offered vaccine, however. According to an Aug. 13 CBS News report, 22,000 immigrants in detention received a vaccine over a week’s span, but about 6,000 in detention refused to get inoculated.
That article noted, “The increased vaccination efforts — and the significant refusal rate — come as coronavirus infections continue to surge inside ICE detention facilities, where the detainee population has ballooned to 25,000, a 70% increase since the start of the Biden administration.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is among those who attribute Biden’s border policies as a contributing factor in the virus’ spread. As noted by the Post, Abbott’s attempt to restrict bus companies and other transportation firms from carrying migrants was blocked in federal court on Aug. 3.
On that same day, as USA Today reported, Biden essentially told Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to help or get out of the way, noting that Texas and Florida account for a third of the U.S.’s new COVID-19 cases.
“Some governors aren’t willing to do the right things to make this happen,” Biden told reporters following an update on the federal COVID-19 response. “I say to these governors, please help. If you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”