Health Highlights: Aug. 21, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

CBP Won’t Vaccinate Migrants Against Flu

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s announcement that it won’t vaccinate migrants is being slammed by public health experts.

Since December, three migrant children in U.S custody have died after coming down with the flu, CNN reported.

“In general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in our custody,” a CBP statement released Tuesday said.

Even though migrants are supposed to be held in CBP custody for a maximum of 72 hours, many remain for longer, CNN reported.

The CBP should be able to vaccinate migrants, even if they’re in custody for only a few days, public health experts say.

“I think their answer is completely inappropriate,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and an adviser to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN.

“They ought to be able to do this. They create facilities that encourage the spread of infectious agents, with flu at the top of the list,” Schaffner said.

In a letter to the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, two members of Congress expressed concern about contagious diseases being spread among detained migrants, CNN reported.

“When we visited the Homestead detention facility on July 15, 2019, we left with serious questions about the screening, treatment, isolation, and prevention protocols of infectious diseases, particularly influenza,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from California, said in the letter sent earlier this month.

They also sent a letter from physicians at Harvard and Johns Hopkins urging vaccinations for detained migrants, CNN reported.

“During the influenza season, vaccination should be offered to all detainees promptly upon arrival in order to maximize protection for the youngest and most vulnerable detainees,” the physicians wrote.


Planned Parenthood Withdraws From Federal Family Planning Program

Planned Parenthood is withdrawing from the U.S. government’s family planning program.

The group said Monday that it decided to pull out of the program rather than obey a new Trump administration rule that forbids clinics from referring women for abortions, the Associated Press reported.

Planned Parenthood’s health centers across the U.S. will remain open and the group will attempt to replace the loss of federal funding, but many low-income people who rely on the group’s services will “delay or go without” care, according to acting president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson.

“We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients,” McGill Johnson said. “Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them.”

A lawsuit to overturn the new rule was launched by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, an umbrella group for family planning clinics, and several states and the American Medical Association have joined the suit as plaintiffs, the AP reported.

The lawsuit was filed with a federal appeals court in San Francisco, but the court has not told the administration that it can’t begin enforcement as planned on Sept. 18. Oral arguments are scheduled the week of Sept. 23.

Abortion rights activists are also urging Congress to overturn the rule, the AP reported.

About 4 million women get services under the family planning program, which distributes $260 million in grants to clinics. Planned Parenthood says it has assisted about 40% of those women, many of them black and Hispanic.