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Home HPV Vaccines HPV Vaccines HPV Vaccines and Immigration

HPV Vaccines and Immigration

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A Florida girl’s attempt to gain U.S. citizenship may be derailed by refusal to have the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, according to a story on abcnews.com and other outlets.

Simone Davis, a 17-year-old born in Britain, seeks to become a U.S. citizen but is confronted by immigration laws mandating that she receive the HPV vaccine. This stems from the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act, which requires that prior to being granted permanent resident status in the U.S., immigrants must receive all vaccines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Last year the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated the list of vaccines required of immigrants to include HPV, a move criticized by a number of advocacy groups who say the mandate places undue burden on those seeking to enter the U.S., particularly women and girls.
Some organizations and advocate groups that focus on immigrant rights and women’s health have questioned the necessity of forcing individuals to receive the vaccine considering that HPV isn’t communicable in public settings. Of the 14 required vaccines, 13 of which aim to prevent infectious diseases considered highly contagious, Gardasil alone targets a sexually transmissible virus. Another worry is that cost may pose unfair financial burden placed on women, possibly acting as a significant financial barrier to seeking citizenship (the vaccine costs $360, plus clinic fees).

The ABC News report says Simone protests the HPV vaccine for several reasons. A Christian, she has taken a virginity pledge and doesn’t understand she why she should be required to take the vaccine when she doesn’t believe herself to be at risk. Her guardian and paternal grandmother filed a waiver to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that was rejected. Now facing the possibility of being separated from her grandmother - and with only 30 days to appeal the decision before she must reapply as an adult (which requires a five year wait to become eligible for citizenship)- Simone questions why none of her American classmates were required to take the HPV vaccine. Her grandmother claims the issue is not simply about religion, and instead highlights their desire to have the same rights of any U.S. citizen. 

Deborah Arrindell, ASHA’s vice-president of health policy, says “This vaccine has enormous potential to protect women’s health, no one’s debating that. What’s troubling is the requirement extends only to immigrants, and doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens. One has to question just how much public health is advanced by requiring the vaccine for a such a narrow segment of the population.”

There are some indications the HPV vaccine requirement may be reconsidered, but perhaps too late to affect Simone’s case.