Sharing COVID vax facts inside ICE detention, 1 detainee at a time

“Programs like VEED are critical,” said Jackie Gonzalez, policy director for Immigrant Defense Advocates, a group working to abolish detention facilities in California. “Because we know individuals who are detained don’t trust the people who are detaining them, especially when the detaining party has been a private corporation that has failed them time and time again on issues of health and safety.”

Introducing VEED: Vaccine Education & Empowerment in Detention

The Vaccine Education and Empowerment in Detention (VEED) program is a unique collaboration between the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice and the Latino Coalition Against COVID-19. This initiative was established to provide accurate and trustworthy information regarding COVID-19 vaccines to immigrants detained in the United States, who often lack access to reliable information about their healthcare options.

VEED arose in response to a pressing public health crisis within immigration detention centers, which have become hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks due to overcrowding, inadequate safety measures, and the lack of a national vaccination plan by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). To address these challenges, VEED connects volunteer physicians with detained immigrants through phone calls, providing culturally sensitive information on vaccines in their preferred language.

Click the article above and read about a call with Pedro Figueroa, a 33-year-old detainee at ICE’s Mesa Verde detention facility in California. Figueroa initially declined a vaccine due to insufficient information about its safety and side effects but later accepted the Pfizer vaccine after speaking with Dr. Turner-Lloveras. Through their 18-minute conversation, Figueroa felt reassured and treated like “just another person who called for information” rather than solely as a detainee.

This story highlights the critical role of trust-building and open communication that VEED fosters between detained immigrants and medical professionals. By prioritizing empathy and shared decision-making power, VEED empowers individuals like Pedro Figueroa to make informed decisions about their healthcare while building trust with healthcare providers.

Currently offering services in four detention centers in California where detainees have specifically requested outside medical advice, VEED aims to expand its reach nationwide while continuing to recruit volunteer physicians. The program has already made significant strides in providing accurate information, bridging the information gap, and instilling confidence in detained immigrants regarding the vaccination process.

Support VEED’s mission today by advocating for equitable healthcare access and fostering a culture of empathy and shared decision-making. Together, we can help ensure that detained immigrants have access to trustworthy health information and a chance to live in a healthier, more inclusive society.