Tips for Caring for Central American Immigrant Families

So it's a typical day at your office. You walk into the exam room to find a Honduran mother and her two young children, brand new to this country and fresh off a bus ride from the Border Patrol processing station in McAllen.

What do you have to do to make sure they're healthy and to protect your community from disease?

Adults crossing the border with children constitute a unique population in the current immigration crisis. They make up about 20 percent of the tens of thousands of Central Americans coming into the country through the Rio Grande Valley now, according to Texas Department of State Health Services Executive Commissioner David Lakey, MD.

Unaccompanied minor immigrants are processed through the Office of Refugee Resettlement and receive health screens and immunizations. But adults with children are processed differently and are being released directly by the Border Patrol. They typically end up at the bus station and are sent to destinations across the country where they have other family members. Dr. Lakey has asked federal officials to conduct full health screenings for this population, but that is not happening yet.

The Border Patrol is not tracking where these families are going, so TMA can't alert you ahead of time if they may show up at your practice. As a service to physicians who see these adults and children, we are sharing a link to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedules for persons age birth through 18 years. The link includes catch-up schedules and minimum intervals between doses for children whose vaccinations have been delayed.

In addition, while some families will have their immunization records with them, children entering childcare or school may need assistance with the required vaccinations

If you are interested in volunteering your services at the border, DSHS is keeping a list of physicians and sharing that information with local health officials. Please contact

Action - July 18, 2014