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Forget the Olympics: Great Britain Beats U.S. in Providing Safety and Healthcare

British residents don't worry about affording medical services, while undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have limited access to healthcare.

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Even more troubling is the possibility that barring access to medical care will result in preventing many of the estimated 350,000 undocumented children from being fully vaccinated against infectious childhood diseases. When parents fear discovery of their undocumented status, they may be reluctant to seek regular medical care and prophylactic vaccination for their children, which can endanger an entire playground, school, neighborhood or community. If approximately 10 percent of a community is unvaccinated the residents lose what is called “herd immunity,” meaning that those for whom the vaccine may not be 100 percent effective or those unable for health reasons to take a vaccine lose the protection that comes when a high proportion of the population are resistant to the disease due to vaccination. When influenza pandemic infects both adults and children, we are all at risk since we may not know for whom the vaccine may be less effective.

The Olympics’ closing ceremonies will likely again remind Americans that international travel and our engagement with individuals across the globe will only increase in the years to come. Xenophobic and mean-spirited immigration and health policies not only endanger American’s physical and economic health--they also diminish our humanity.

Leslie Gerwin is the Associate Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She teaches public health law and policy as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University and is a participant in The OpEd Project’s Public Voices Fellowship.

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