U.S. border agents to require people applying for asylum to get second dose of flu vaccine

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will require all people who seek asylum along the southern border to receive a second dose of the vaccine for one of the most common and often-overlooked health risks on the border.

Routine immunizations are recommended for people who enter the United States through ports of entry and visitors to the country. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages visitors to get vaccinated for flu, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson field office announced Thursday that people who want to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry will be asked to show proof of receiving a second dose of the intra-organism immunoglobulin-19 vaccine, which is administered orally.

The CDC recommends that people over the age of 21 with chronic conditions obtain and use the vaccine as it can protect against pneumonia-causing enterovirus 67 and influenza, which will happen more than 50,000 times in the United States this year.

Immunoglobulin-19 is “a major component” of a vaccine currently recommended for pregnant women to prevent the infections of whooping cough, which tends to increase during times of change in migratory patterns. Doctors recommend whooping cough vaccination for all children ages 2 to 18 months and to all adults. Pregnant women who catch the disease in their third trimester or unborn child can face serious health risks, including a one-in-ten-chance of death for infants who are exposed.

Immunoglobulin-19 also protects the body against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

Tom Homan, director of field operations for the U.S. Border Patrol, said children under the age of 5 don’t usually show symptoms of these diseases, but he expects that healthy children will be asked to show proof of their second dose.

“This might not be something where every individual has the simple decency to provide us with that documentation,” Homan said. “But that’s why we’re going to require it.”

Immunoglobulin-19 is one of dozens of vaccines that Customs and Border Protection officers in Arizona are required to administer, the agency said in a statement. The federal agency also provides immunoglobulin-19 to asylum-seekers who arrive through ports of entry.

Jeff Berger, the director of infectious diseases for Public Health England, said the second dose of immunoglobulin-19 is generally more effective than a first one at preventing illness.

“The introduction of the seasonal influenza vaccine earlier this decade gave us the opportunity to move our immunoglobulin practices up to an even higher standard,” Berger said in an email. “We welcome CBP’s latest effort.”

Immunoglobulin-19 is manufactured by Immunopharma. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

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