Half of Migrants Piling Into NYC Not Vaxxed for Polio, Top Doc Warns
Carl Campanile, New York Post, April 16, 2023
A startling 50% of migrants streaming into the Big Apple are not vaccinated against the contagious and potentially deadly poliovirus, city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan recently revealed — as he urged doctors to help prevent a public health emergency, The Post has learned.
Vasan also said the new migrants come from, or pass through, countries with high rates of infectious tuberculosis — and noted there’ve been outbreaks of chickenpox in shelters housing the newcomers.
“More than 50,000 people have come to New York City (NYC) in the past year shortly after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. As more people arrive and many make NYC their home, the scale and scope of need continues to grow,” Vasan said in an eight-page letter, dated April 11, sent to physicians and other health care providers. A copy was obtained by The Post.
“I am writing now to underscore how critical it is that health care providers take a wide range of considerations into account when working with people who are seeking asylum … The scope of this letter represents the scale of the need. It is incumbent upon us as a welcoming city to comprehensively evaluate and meet these needs.”
Vasan said screening and vaccinating migrants for diseases and viruses that’ve been kept in check in the city is a top priority.
“Vaccination rates for certain diseases are low in some of the most common countries of origin, with rates hovering around 50% for polio as an example,” the commissioner said.
The polio virus spreads through person-to-person contact, lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines — and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.
Paralysis is the most severe symptom of poliovirus because it can lead to permanent disability and death.
Between two and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from polio die because the virus damages the muscles that help them breathe, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jay Varma, who served as the senior health advisor to former Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the number of migrants not immune from polio is a cause for concern, but manageable.
“There is always a risk to public health when people are not vaccinated against important infectious diseases, such as measles and polio,” Varma said told The Post on Sunday.
The potential for public health outbreaks is one of many concerns for officials concerned about absorving the migrant influx.
Mayor Eric Adams said the estimated city tab could hit $4.3 billion to cover shelter, food and other services for asylum seekers.
He also said it was important to test for tuberculosis, an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules in the tissues, especially the lungs.
“Many people who recently arrived in NYC have lived in or traveled through countries with high rates of TB,” Vasan said.
He said the city Health Department’s clinics provide treatment at no cost to patients, regardless of their immigration status.
The letter said migrants have been infected with chicken pox.