Migrant kids better vaccinated than U.S. kids, but Fox News stokes ‘germ’ fears anyway

By Scott Kaufman
Friday, July 11, 2014 14:53 EDT
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A Pakistani child receives polio vaccination drops in Rawalpindi (AFP)
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Claims by conservative lawmakers and news organizations about plague- and disease-ridden children overwhelming the United States’ border with Mexico are wildly exaggerated, The Texas Observer reported.

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert spoke to conservative news outlet Newsmax recently, claiming that “we don’t even know what diseases [these immigrants] have. Our health care systems can’t withstand this influx.”

The most dangerous threat to American citizens is tuberculosis, against which very few Americans are vaccinated. However, more than 90 percent of Central Americans are vaccinated against the disease, and it is highly unlikely that those suffering the contagious, multi-drug-resistant form of it would be able to make the arduous trip across the Texas border — especially if the patient stricken with it were a child.

Fox News commentator Cal Thomas demanded to know whether these undocumented children had papers proving that they had been vaccinated for “mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria.”

But as The Texas Observer‘s Rachel Pearson noted, children from Guatemala — where vaccines are provided free of charge by the government’s universal health care system — are more likely to be vaccinated against those diseases than children in Texas, where the rate of parents who “opt out” of vaccinations citing “reasons of conscience” has increased every year since 2003.

Moreover, claims by Fox News and Breitbart News contributor Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet that diseases, like the measles, that have been “eradicated” in the U.S. are being “carried across the border by this tsunami of illegals” have proven factually untrue.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been no reported cases of measles in Guatemala or Honduras since 1990, whereas anti-vaccination efforts in the United States have led to multiple outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet, Fox News has reported, repeatedly, that the children entering the country are doing so “with active scabies,” one of the three most common skin infections among children.

However, The National Review cast doubt about verifiability of the scabies claims, noting that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who made them, Ron Zermeno, received a cease and desist order from his employer, reminding him that he should not speak without prior authorization.

One border agent in Otay Mesa, California was diagnosed with scabies after processing undocumented immigrants, but it is not known which undocumented immigrants that agent processed, nor how old they were.

[Image via AFP]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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