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June 25 2019

Two Truths and a Lie: Vaccination Requirements for Immigrants and Visitors

by Heather Madden

Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”

Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about infectious disease and the border.

A. In the U.S., recent outbreaks of measles--a disease so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected--have been linked to unvaccinated U.S. travelers who brought measles back from other countries where there are ongoing measles outbreaks.

B. Those who legally immigrate to the U.S. are required to provide proof of vaccination prior to admittance. 

C. Likewise, nonimmigrant (temporary) visa holders, travelers, and illegal immigrants are subject to the same proof of vaccination.

Let’s take these statements one at a time:

A: TRUTH!

More than 1,000 cases of measles have been reported in more than two dozen states this year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that the disease is so contagious that if  “one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease that was once declared eradicated in the U.S. According to the CDC, the recent measles outbreaks can be traced back to unvaccinated U.S. travelers who brought measles back from other countries where there are ongoing measles outbreaks. Once the disease is here, it spreads in part because some parents have opted out of vaccinating their children despite overwhelming evidence that the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and effective.

 B: TRUTH!

Under current laws, immigrants who legally immigrate to the U.S. are required to be vaccinated against the following diseases:

  • Mumps

  • Measles

  • Rubella

  • Polio

  • Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids

  • Pertussis

  • Haemophilus influenzae type B

  • Hepatitis B

  • Any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices

C: LIE! 

While legal immigrants are required to comply with laws requiring immunization, nonimmigrant (temporary) visa holders, visitors from other countries, and those who cross our borders or remain in our country illegally are not subject to these same requirements. 

These loopholes in vaccination requirements should serve as a warning as they may increase the likelihood of future infections of measles or other diseases. The threat of infectious disease puts all of us, particularly immigrants, at risk.

The number of migrants arriving at the southern border seeking entry into the U.S. drastically increases each month. In May, more than 132,000 individuals were caught attempting to illegally cross the border. These increasing numbers have overwhelmed the system, which means many find themselves in environments where they may not get the care and support they need. These conditions, particularly overcrowding, pose serious risks for those in these facilities where disease has the potential to quickly spread.

Independent Women’s Voice just launched a petition urging the administration redouble efforts to secure our borders and to direct the CDC to update its rules to ensure that all who enter the country show proof of vaccination. Requiring that all who wish to enter are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases will provide protection for these individuals against current measles outbreaks already happening in the U.S. and can help prevent future outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.  

This isn’t a political issue. For the sake of us all, it is imperative for the government to do more to prevent a worsening public health crisis for Americans citizens and migrants alike.

 




Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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