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Doctors attempt to vaccinate migrants in detention centers; CBP says no

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SAN DIEGO -- A group of physicians Monday gathered at a migrant detention facility near San Diego to offer free flu vaccinations to those detained. The group plans to stay there through Wednesday to demand a meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"It has never been a CBP practice to administer vaccines and this is not a new policy," said a CBP spokesperson. "Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities. Every effort is made to hold detainees for the least amount of time required for their processing, transfer, release or repatriation as appropriate and operationally feasible."

According to the group of physicians, affiliated with Doctors for Camp Closures, flu infections were responsible for at least three child deaths in U.S. immigration custody during the 2018 flu season, which is nine times the mortality incidence of the general pediatric population.

"However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection continue to deny flu vaccinations to detained migrants in need, despite recommendations from countless medical professionals and the Center for Disease Control," the group said in a statement.

CBP said there has been an increase in the population of the detention centers lately, which means some are staying longer at the facilities.

"Due to the massive influx of migrants recently and the changing demographics, at times, CBP has not been able to limit time in CBP custody to 72 hours," a CBP spokesperson added. "However, that is still the goal and the agency, working with partners, is still doing everything it can to move people out of temporary CBP holding facilities."

The physicians said once CBP grants permission, they will mobilize a free flu clinic immediately.

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