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Home HPV Vaccines HPV Vaccines HPV Vaccine Requirement for Immigrant Women Causes Ruckus

HPV Vaccine Requirement for Immigrant Women Causes Ruckus

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On August 1, 2008, 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 an undue burden on those seeking to enter the U.S.

The vaccine requirement stems from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was amended in 1996 to mandate that prior to being granted permanent resident status, immigrants must receive all vaccines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

The new requirement came about with little fanfare, but by September 2008 many organizations that focus on immigrant rights and women’s health began expressing concern.  Some question the necessity of forcing individuals to receive the vaccine considering that HPV isn’t communicable in public settings the way some other vaccine preventable infections are.  Another worry is that cost may pose a significant financial barrier to those seeking citizenship (the vaccine costs $360, plus clinician fees).

There have even been suggestions this is a deliberate ploy to make immigration more difficult, a charge flatly denied by the government. On its website, the USCIS says “any vaccination recommendation made by the ACIP for persons living within the U.S. becomes a requirement for immigrants,” and note that the expanded list of required immunizations also include those for rotavirus, hepatitis A, meningitis and zoster.

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 such a narrow segment of the population.”

Jon Abramson, M.D., who was chairman of the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices when the body recommended the vaccine for U.S. citizens last year, has been quoted as saying this policy is “not a good idea.” There are some indications that the HPV vaccine requirement may be reconsidered.  

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