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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8 responses to “CDC Denies Intent to Force HPV Vaccination of Immigrants”

  1. What’s the problem? If they want to live here, then they have to get the immunizations we tell them to get. If some some strange reason they don’t want to be vaccinated, they can stay in their birth countries.

  2. jonolan, as I responded to you elsewhere, yes, they must meet the requirements. I am suggesting that we ask whether this specific requirement is valid or useful in the first place. This is the difference between “X is illegal” and “Does it make sense for X to be illegal,” and some of us are obviously going to disagree. If you think it’s appropriate to mandate a vaccine that we don’t mandate for citizens, for a disease that isn’t readily contagious and so doesn’t pose the kind of public health threat as other vaccine-preventable diseases, in a vulnerable population with no opt-out provisions (which we provide to citizens when we recommend or even mandate vaccines), then we disagree. Plainly.

  3. Up here in Canada the HPV vaccine is all over the place; on the radio, on bus ads, it’s just everywhere. Parents are encouraged by the local school boards to get the shot even though Gardasil only protects against half (4/8) of the known HPV strains. Also, because this vaccine hasn’t been around for very long, I’m worried about what the long term health effects will be for young women when they get older from taking it. Sure, if you get the shot you’re less likely to get cervical cancer, but it’s not a guarantee, and honestly I think it might give young women a false sense of security so they wont go and get annual cervical exams. If I had a daughter I wouldnt’ let her get vaccinated.

  4. Gardasil is a bogus vaccine marketed by Merck as a magic bullet against cervical cancer, when it is no such thing. Not only does it afford minimal protection, at best, against genital warts – which is what it actually does, NOT provide “immunity” against cervical cancer, not even close – its use is rendered completely redundant and unnecessary by the fact that those who are given the shots (three of them, and they are expensive, at three hundred bucks a pop,) must undergo follow-up examination at the gynecologist, during which exams any signs or indicators of cervical cancer are easily detected and treated, rendering Gardasil’s use completely useless. I repeat, Completely Useless. Except to put billions of dollars in Merck’s coffers at the expense of the health of millions of girls and women being used as guinea pigs with an untried, untested drug whose history up ’til now augurs terribly for our future. Just check out the FDA’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to see the lethal and life-altering consequences of taking this drug. There is no sound medical reason to support compulsory use of this drug in any population, least of all the most vulnerable among us (children, immigrants, the poor and disadvantaged.) Women, be aware and take care. Be proactive about your own health! Eat a balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or bok choy, and you will derive as much, if not more, protection against the infections, such as genital warts, that may be precursors to cervical cancer as you would by injecting yourself with a poison that is known to have so far caused more than a hundred deaths and thousands of life-threatening adverse reactions.

    Say NO to Gardasil: be one less innocent victim of Big Pharma’s greed, indifference, and corruption. I encourage everyone to Be One Less, just like the ad asks us to.

  5. Perry, nutritious foods are indeed a good thing, but I think you may be exaggerating by suggesting that they have the same effect as vaccines. You also seem to be misunderstanding what the VAERS system is and what entries to it actually mean – have a look at this previous post for an explanation. In short, the number of reports to VAERS has little meaning without further investigation. As I suggest in that previous post, yes, I think it’s important to watch this vaccine and the politics around it, and yes, I think it’s important to protect vulnerable members of our society from exploitation. However, deliberately spreading misinformation or misinterpretation on the topic doesn’t help achieve these goals in a legitimate way at all.

  6. Rachel, any way one interprets the numbers on the VAERS system, they keep going up, meaning more and more young girls are being harmed, some horribly, by this drug. This can’t be a good thing. And you’re absolutely right, I may be exaggerating the efficacy of a health-imparting rather than -depleting diet in helping to ward off infections – which is all Gardasil does, as I reiterate, it does not prevent, cure, or even treat cervical cancer – but I’ll take my chances with broccoli and safe sex practices over being injected with Gardasil any day. Categorically refuting and disdainfully dismissing the benefits of anything other than their costly, side effect-laden drugs is standard practice for the corporations that profit in the billions by their use, but your adoption of that tactic comes as something of a disappointment. Nothing good can possibly come from mandating vaccination with Gardasil, and irreparable harm to millions of young girls and women, and future generations as well, may ensue if the CDC’s ill-considered recommendations are imposed upon those populations most vulnerable to its compulsory use. I don’t think that’s a risk worth taking, and if you think my concerns are exaggerated, that’s up to you, but I think they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of how dangerous and unnecessary this drug will eventually prove to be. Merck doesn’t exactly have a great track record in that regard.

  7. Perry, to be clear, I think it’s vitally important to be concerned about the safety and efficacy of any new medical products, particularly those marketed as heavily as Gardasil. I also think it’s completely inappropriate to mandate the vaccine for immigrants, who do not have the opt out options we provide when we mandate vaccines for citizens. That said, it does matter how the numbers in the VAERS system are interpreted. Of course “they keep going up” – as time passes, more events can be reported. However, it is necessary to examine the reports further to know anything about what they mean – they are not vetted prior to entry for biological plausibility, for example. Yes, I think it’s important to be concerned, but I also think it’s important not to misrepresent what the VAERS system is and does if we want an accurate picture of the safety and risks of the vaccine. It’s possible that Gardasil will turn out to be less safe than it is represented as being – but we can’t actually know that just from referring to the raw “numbers” of VAERS reports.

  8. Absolutely, and quite right of you to point that out, Rachel. I think we’re on the same side of a parallel argument: that mandatory vaccination with Gardasil is not a good idea, at least not until it’s been tested and vetted much more thoroughly. We’re just coming at it from different angles. My point is that anecdotal evidence, which many of the VAERS reports comprise, is always the first, undeniable step towards recognizing the truth about something like Gardasil. Honest, discerning interpretation of the statistics concerning its use is necessary, no question about it, and we should, absolutely, demand and foster an “accurate picture of [its] safety and risks.” But we won’t get such a picture from the corporation that stands to profit in the billions by its compulsory use, or from its paid “evaluators” on the FDA board charged with deciding which drugs pass muster and get placed on the market and which do not. How many deaths and life-altering impairments attributable in even a circuitous way to this drug and noted on the VAERS system will it take before we realize it’s not worth the danger it poses? Rather than promulgating the chancy idea that Gardasil serves any useful purpose other than to enrich Merck’s coffers, you will serve your readers better, I believe, by offering a more complete description of its uselessness as a prophylactic and its alarming history, however anecdotal it may be, of harming those who are injected with it.

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