CHULA VISTA, Calif. (CNN/Gray News) - Federal authorities arrested six protesters after doctors offering flu vaccines to detained migrants were turned away at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego-area headquarters.
Doctors for Camp Closure, an organization that opposes detention of migrants and refugees attempting to enter the United States, protested with upwards of 70 people, including physicians, outside the Chula Vista, California, facility Monday.
The protests began after CBP denied the organization’s request to give flu vaccines to detained migrants.
Several protesters could be seen on video blocking both driveways of the facility by lying down. They say they were spreading the message that basic healthcare and hygiene is a human right.
"People die of the flu, but the people who have died of the flu in CPB custody, it was completely preventable,” Dr. Julie Sierra said. “Keeping people in hygienic conditions and not overcrowding them and giving them soap and access to showers, that can help prevent illness. But nothing prevents the flu like a flu vaccine.”
At least three children in U.S. immigration custody died from flu infections during the 2018 flu season. That’s nine times the mortality rate of the general pediatric population, according to Doctors for Camp Closure.
One of those children was 16-year-old Carlos Vasquez from Guatemala, who was found dead May 20. Video released Thursday by ProPublica shows the teenager suffering from a 103-degree fever. He collapses on the floor, where he lies for several hours before being found.
CBP said in a statement it is investigating the 16-year-old’s death to “ensure all procedures were followed.”
WARNING: The below video is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.
In light of the deaths last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended CBP vaccinate detained migrants against the flu virus in a Nov. 7 letter, according to the Washington Post. CBP officials said the agency has never provided immunizations for detained migrants, and it would not do so.
The CDC recommends flu vaccines for nearly everyone ages 6 months and older in the U.S., as they reduce the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and the potential for flu-related death in children.