Local health officials in Mexico have vaccinated hundreds of transient migrants and asylum seekers against COVID-19 this week as they wait to enter the United States.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “The Baja California Secretary of Heath allocated hundreds of Pfizer vaccines for migrants who have been staying at a migrant camp near the El Chaparral border crossing, as well as at seven shelters in Tijuana.”
“As Governor Jaime Bonilla has said: Baja California is a sanctuary for migrants, and we are going to vaccinate everyone,” said Secretary of Health Alonso Pérez Rico, per the Union-Tribune.
Pérez Rico has reportedly allocated more than 1300 Pfizer doses to immunize adults 18 years of age or older at the shelters. Almost 800 migrants were vaccinated on Tuesday, according to health officials. Vaccinations continued Wednesday. Nurses reportedly urged migrants to return for a second dose through a loudspeaker.
While more than 4,000 migrants of different nationalities are waiting in the Mexican border state, “Tuesday was the first time authorities opted to take the vaccine directly to the El Chaparral, where it is estimated that more than 1,200 are staying,” the Union-Tribune reported.
El Chaparral is a plaza on the Mexican side of the port of entry where many migrants live in makeshift tents.
Pérez Rico said health authorities would administer vaccines to anyone in Tijuana, regardless of how they got there or where they came from.
More details from the Union-Tribune:
Many migrants agreed that one of the reasons they wanted to get vaccinated was to be ready if the U.S. requested the vaccine as part of asylum.
“I’m afraid of being sent back,” said Héctor Cruz, 24, an asylum seeker from Honduras. “Now that I’m vaccinated, I’m more prepared for whatever is next in the process.”
Under a process that allows a limited number of vulnerable asylum seekers into the U.S., a negative COVID-19 test must be shown as part of the requirements, noted Soraya Vázquez, deputy director of Al Otro Lado in Tijuana, a binational legal services organization that assists asylum seekers.
Vázquez acknowledged it could be a challenge for migrants to return for their second shot.
“One of the things we face when we start some kind of program with the migrant population is precisely mobility,” she said. “Migrants do not last long in the same space.”
According to FOX News reporter Bill Melugin, officials in McAllen, Texas, claim the federal government has released more than 7,000 migrants diagnosed with COVID-19 into that city since February.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, “The Biden administration is preparing to begin offering coronavirus vaccine to migrants in U.S. custody along the Mexico border, where 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.”
According to 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.”