Vaccine shortage amid chickenpox outbreak hits migrants at Mexican border

By Manuel Ayala

Tijuana, Mexico, Aug 25 (EFE).- Migrants stranded at Mexico’s northern border are complaining of unavailability of vaccines amid a chickenpox outbreak that has infected 70 children.

Families awaiting the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States are missing immigration appointments due to the inability to cross the border with an infected child.

The situation has led to migrant protests at Agape World Mission shelter in Tijuana at the border with California.

Families have demonstrated at the US Consulate General, seeking its intervention.

Albert Rivera, director of the shelter, told EFE that authorities have hindered access to vaccines since the beginning of the outbreak, citing bureaucratic hurdles.

“The United States donated 2,000 vaccines to Mexico, but Mexican customs are not releasing them, and this means that human rights are being violated,” he said.

Meanwhile, local health authorities say the Mexican federal government is responsible for the distribution of vaccines. Other sources suggest that UNICEF should oversee the vaccination efforts.

But Rivera says the organization has not been with them for two years.

The pastor recalled a similar chickenpox outbreak last year that forced the shelter into an eight-month-long quarantine due to the vaccine shortage.

“And they never gave us preventive vaccines, just lotions and things like that,” he added.

The chickenpox outbreak coincides with a surge in migrant flows through Mexico after a decline by the expiration of the US immigration policy known as Title 42 in May.

After the migration policy ended, the number of irregular migrants at the US border dropped by 50 percent between May and June.

However, there was a 36 percent increase in irregular migration, mostly involving families traveling together, between June and July, says the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

Rivera said activists and migrants have taken self-imposed preventive measures, such as quarantining children for 15 days or more until they feel better.

The pastor called on Mexican President Lopez Obrador, urging him to solve the problem, engage with customs, and, if vaccines are available, make sure they reach the health department for children’s vaccination.

Maria, from the Mexican state of Guerrero, shared her ordeal of her daughter’s chickenpox.

She told EFE that the child had rashes that turned into blisters, accompanied by fever, chills, and headache.

They sought the help of a private doctor and managed the illness solely with painkillers and some lotion to expedite blister healing.

“It was complicated because we had to isolate her, she couldn’t go out, had mouth sores and couldn’t eat or drink. We are asking them to give vaccines to the children in need,” she said. EFE

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