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A prisoner shines a torch from the main ICE detention center in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Three in 10 immigrants in U.S. detention centers are saying no to the COVID-19 vaccine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Vaccine hesitancy among detained immigrants has added an unlikely twist to the challenges of a pandemic-era increase in border migration.

By the numbers: ICE did not provide the exact numbers of immigrants who were offered the shot but declined. But the 30% figure has been shared internally, according to sources familiar.

  • There have been nearly 20,000 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths among ICE detainees , according to agency data. There are currently more than 900 confirmed cases.

Between the lines: Public health officials are concerned about groups of Americans — including young people and Republicans — eschewing available shots.

  • One ICE official said immigrants have refused the shot for many of the same reasons as Americans who do so, including fear of the unknown.

The big picture: Some Democrats and advocates have been urging the Biden administration to do more to ensure that migrants who cross the border, or other immigrants in government custody, are protected from the virus.

  • ICE recently began distributing an initial allotment of 10,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 9,500 doses have been distributed so far, according to internal data provided to Axios.
  • The agency has also been working with state agencies to provide vaccines to immigrants.

What they're saying: "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues its vaccination efforts to include voluntary vaccinations for individuals in the care and custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)," an ICE spokesperson told Axios.

Go deeper

Appeals court scraps order mandating COVID protections for immigrant detainees

ICE detention center in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Judges on a federal appeals court Wednesday voted 2-1 to overturn an order requiring authorities to monitor and possibly release immigrants being held at detention centers if they are at high-risk for long term COVID-19 complications, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Why it matters: In its ruling, the San Fransisco-based panel said a federal district judge overreached in 2020 when he issued a preliminary injunction requiring the monitoring. The Trump administration appealed that ruling, and Biden's Justice Department continued to argue against it when he took office.

Oct 20, 2021 - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5–11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11, pending authorization from the FDA of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, and tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots.

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.