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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | HPV Vaccine Requirement for Female Immigrants Discriminatory, Advocates Say

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | HPV Vaccine Requirement for Female Immigrants Discriminatory, Advocates Say
[Sept. 30, 2008]

Some immigration and women's rights advocacy groups are claiming that a new requirement for female immigrants to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine is discriminatory, the Dallas Morning News reports. The requirement, which applies to female immigrants ages 11 to 26 seeking permanent residence, went into effect on July 1. The vaccine, approved by FDA two years ago 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.

Some women's groups said the mandate is discriminatory because the HPV vaccine is gender-specific. Jennifer Ng'andu, associate director of health policy at the National Council of La Raza, said that the requirement is "outrageous," adding that despite its benefits, the vaccine is "not accompanied by education, and [the government is] only going to be requiring this for one group of people." Ana Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, said the cost of the vaccine -- which adds $375 to the status change fee of $1,410 -- hinders women looking to change their legal status. Correa said she has noticed a decrease in the number of applications for citizenship as the fees have increased. "I don't think it's a coincidence that they're pushing for a policy that would provide a burden on immigrants," she said.

Maria Elena Garcia-Upson -- spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Services in Dallas, Texas -- said the organization is following recommendations given by CDC. According to the Morning News, federal funding for the HPV vaccine is available through CDC's Vaccines for Children program, but adult women might find it difficult to pay for the vaccination. The new requirement is not intended to hinder people from the application process, Garcia-Upson said, adding that she "think[s] the public would agree that people who are coming into this country to adjust their status, if they have a contagious disease, we don't want that disease to be spread around."

CIS requires vaccines for both men and women for hepatitis A, meningitis, zoster and rotavirus, and immigrants applying for a status change were given a 30-day grace period for medical exams conducted before Aug. 1, the Morning News reports. Dale Morse, chair of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said vaccine recommendations made by the committee are "based on scientific information using criteria such as burden of disease, safety and cost effectiveness. However, ACIP does not mandate the use of vaccines" for U.S. citizens (Longoria, Dallas Morning News, 9/28).