GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen sent letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of the Army John McHugh complaining that Guantanamo Bay detainees should not receive the H1N1 vaccine before American citizens. Here’s part of the letter:
I certainly understand the underlying problem being an overall lack of available vaccines nationwide, but I was extremely disappointed to learn that detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay will soon be offered H1N1 vaccination, while high-risk priority groups such as pregnant women and children in Minnesota and across the nation continue to wait for this vaccine. While it is appropriate to offer the vaccine to guards and service members stationed at Guantanamo, it is entirely unacceptable to make this vaccine available to detainees while millions of law-abiding Americans are forced to wait in line.
The Pentagon made the decision to give the vaccine to the prisoners because they are at high risk for infection:
The Pentagon made the decision based on U.S. government assessments that people held in detention facilities are at high risk for the pandemic, said Maj. Diana R. Haynie, a spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, which is in charge of holding the suspected terrorists.
“Detainees at JTF Guantanamo are considered to be at higher risk and therefore they will be offered the H1N1 vaccination,” Haynie said.
“JTF Guantanamo conducts safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees. As such, we must provide detainees the medical care necessary to maintain their health,” she said.
Update: A spokesman for Paulsen says Paulsen and his family did not get H1N1 shots.