CDC Denies Intent to Force HPV Vaccination of Immigrants

By Rachel Walden — October 15, 2008

A number of bloggers have written over the past month about a new requirement that immigrants seeking permanent legal status in the United States must receive the HPV vaccine. The requirement is troublesome for a number of reasons, including the lack of an opt-out provision (in contrast to requirements for U.S. citizens), the expense of the series, the lack of significant public health risk posed by omitting this vaccine, and the vulnerability of the affected population.

This requirement originates in the CDC’s vaccination recommendations, which become mandatory for those seeking legal residency. These vaccines are typically for readily infectious diseases such as meningitis, polio, hepatitis, and measles. When the CDC adopted the HPV vaccine (currently only the Gardasil brand shot is available) into its recommendations, that triggered their requirement for immigrants.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on the controversy generated by this requirement, and noted that the CDC claims it never really intended the effect on immigrant populations. According to the piece:

“A CDC spokesman said the experts on the immunization committee didn’t realize their decision would affect tens of thousands of immigrants. However, a government official said the cervical vaccine’s inclusion on the list might be reviewed.”

I would have expected that considerations about the meaning of vaccine recommendations – of what actually happens as a result – might have been part of the decision-making process. Perhaps the CDC will be more alert in the future as to the actual implementation effects of their recommendations. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson interviewed by WSJ explained that the mandate is “a statutory requirement. It’s based on CDC recommendations.”

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