United States to require vaccines for immigrants crossing into U.S.

The U.S. will require new immigrants entering the country legally from countries outside the United States to get a vaccine against a virus that can cause paralysis and death in children, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Friday.

Nielsen described her meeting with Mexican Ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez Méndez and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as the first of several with Mexican officials in recent days to discuss immigration issues and border security. She said her visit also focused on maintaining immigration laws and its role in providing stability to migrant families traveling to the United States, as well as “eliminating the scourge of transnational drug trafficking.”

The current system for screening a new immigrant’s health history is filled with holes, Nielsen said, including either relying on foreigners to visit a hospital or leaving medical information ambiguous on paper to the federal government that can’t be checked.

“Mexico and all of us in our north are united in our desire to combat this public health issue and put an end to what is a preventable tragedy,” Nielsen said.

Mexican officials said they discussed efforts to curtail illegal immigration.

“What I don’t want to do is start having some external discussion about issues that will have an impact not just on Mexico, but on the entire south and the whole region,” Gutiérrez said.

California has required vaccinations for children to enter the state starting in 2014 and Colorado and Utah have a similar law on the books. The bill not only requires children to get the 17 vaccines, including two doses of the HPV vaccine, but also notes that parents and guardians “may voluntarily exempt their children from these vaccines if they feel that the benefits of the vaccine do not outweigh the risks to them or a family member.”

In the United States, it doesn’t require any paperwork to get the vaccination.

An El Paso, Texas, hospital said it notified border patrol about concerns with the vaccines last month and added that some border agents had been prescribed a dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved for use in adults.

“The reaction from border patrol has been positive,” said Tanya Vallejos, a spokeswoman for the Intensive Care Unit at the University Medical Center-El Paso. “It makes sense: border patrol is out there doing it day in and day out.”

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