A coalition of more than 100 groups representing women, immigrants, and public health and reproductive rights advocates are hoping CDC will repeal its rule requiring female immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil, the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports (Garay, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 5/7).
The vaccine, approved by FDA in 2006 and recommended by CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, prevents transmission of HPV strains responsible for 70% of cervical cancer and 90% of genital warts. Gardasil was added to an updated list of immigration vaccines in July 2008 and the policy went into effect Aug. 1 (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 10/2/08). CDC has been conducting an ongoing review of the requirement, and the public comment period ended on Friday.
Currently, female immigrants ages 11 to 26 must receive Gardasil to be eligible for a green card. The CDC advisory committee recommends the vaccine for U.S. residents, but the agency has proposed changing the criteria used to decide which vaccines should be required for immigrants. The coalition says that mandating the vaccine for immigrant women but not for most U.S. residents is unfair. Priscilla Huang, policy and programs director for the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, said, "We feel like the CDC is acting in good faith ... and that there is a good chance that the HPV vaccine will be retracted."
Huang said many young women are faced with the choice of getting the vaccine or waiting until they reach age 27 to acquire a green card. The vaccination is a three-shot series that costs between $400 and $1,000, which can add to financial strain for immigrants who already pay more than $1,000 in form fees and hundreds of dollars for mandatory medical exams. Huang said health insurance companies do not pay for medical services required for immigration purposes, which further increases the financial burden for immigrants (Garay, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 5/7).