Attorney describes effects of vaccine overdose in refugee child at Dilley detention camp

July 6, 2015

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Two hundred and fifty children detained at the Dilley family detention camp in Texas were given adult doses of the vaccine for Hepatitis A last week.  Fever, pain and difficulty walking are some of the symptoms in a child who had received the higher than recommended dose of the vaccine, according to an attorney who saw the child Wednesday.

"I met with a mother last week at Dilley, who told me that her four year old child was feverish, not eating, having trouble walking, and complaining of the pain in his leg,” said Barbara Hines, an immigration attorney and Emerson Senior Fellow who visited Dilley over the week.  “This latest incident again makes clear why children and their mothers should not be detained. Private prisons cannot care for families and these facilities must be closed.”

Grassroots Leadership renews our demand that the family detention camps in Texas and Pennsylvania be closed immediately. “I thought we’d heard it all when it comes to abuse and neglect in the family detention camps,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “But the gross neglect in overdosing children with vaccine is a new low.”

Others in the medical community say the incident points to fundamental problems with family detention, especially when for-profit private prison companies are involved. “The symptoms that Barbara saw are consistent with vaccine overdose, which can cause fever, pain, and swelling at the injection site. While most of the kids should be just fine, the fact that this happened to 250 of them is deeply concerning,”  said Rachel Pearson, MD/PhD Candidate at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “There are plenty of medications that, unlike the Hep A vaccine, can be harmful or even fatal to overdosed kids. This is a red flag warning of deeper problems with medical care in detention centers, and reminds us why private prison corporations should not be entrusted with the care of children.”

The American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council released a statement on Saturday exposing the overdoses and calling for an end to family detention.

While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Richard Rocha on Saturday told several news organizations that there were no adverse reactions, advocates noted that Rocha is not a physician and is not based in the Dilley detention center..



Cristina Parker,, 915-497-2747

Barbara Hines, 512-699-3337