In the Documents: Vaccines Expired in Detention Facility Fridge in Early 2019

Documents obtained by American Oversight from the Texas Department of State Health Services reveal that 39 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine went bad when a refrigerator at the ICE-operated El Valle Detention Facility in Raymondville, Tex., failed in January 2019, during a mumps outbreak in migrant detention facilities. 

The records include an email from a Texas Department of State Health Services regional medical director to Diane Elson, the head of the Public Health, Safety, and Preparedness Unit at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the subject line “Varicella Guidelines.”

Among questions about vaccine shipping costs and guidance on specific virus management, the Texas official, Emilie Prot, said, “El Valle’s fridge failed and 39 doses [were] deemed no good by the manufacturer. Are there any requirements by ICE for generators/automatic temperature keeping/alarm systems in order to minimize loss of medications that require to be kept at cold temperatures?” 

Elson’s reply referred the official to ICE’s Performance-Based National Detention Standards, particularly the section on pharmaceutical management. Prot’s email had also brought up an issue in which the warden of the Rio Grande Detention Center, operated by the for-profit GEO Group, did “not want to have to pay for FedEx of a sample to be tested.” Elson replied that GEO must incur the costs of shipping the specimens to the state lab. Though it’s not clear if this conversation continued elsewhere, the email discussion ends here. 

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