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HPV Vaccine Mandate for Immigrant Women Eliminated: A Win for Sexual Rights

Written By: Audacia Ray
November 13, 2009

 

There has been plenty of controversy about the HPV vaccine, released in the US under the brand name Gardasil in 2006, and the extent to which it encourages promiscuity in young women. Though the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for girls aged 11 to 26, it hasn’t been successfully mandated by law for US citizens. After Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order mandating the vaccine for girls in 2007, public outcry from moral conservatives led to a bill overturning the order. However, immigrants have been held to different standards. Beginning in July 2008, female immigrants ages 11 to 26 who are seeking permanent residence or entry to the U.S. were required to be immunized against HPV at their own expense.

We learned today that effective on December 14, 2009 (after the standard 30 day implementation period), the HPV vaccine will no longer be required for immigration purposes.

The very terrific National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) has been a major force behind the advocacy work necessary to make this change. On August 10, 2009, the NAPAWF authored a sign-on letter to Thomas R. Frieden, acting director of the CDC, urging him to rescind the mandate. The International Women’s Health Coalition and 140 other organizations signed on to NAPAWF’s letter.

The letter cites the following personal story of an immigrant woman and her concerns over expense and privacy rights:

    “… I have been raising my grand-daughter since she was 20 months old and was abandoned by her mother. To cut a long story short on how we came to be alone in the US etc. I will just say we were in very difficult circumstances and in the care of the Domestic Violence unit…

    In July 2008 I sent all the paperwork and fees to apply for change of status/permanent residence for her. She was 16 years old. After the finger print [sic] appointment we were told to get the medical exam. The appointment came for August and that is when we found out about the HPV vaccination requirement.

    I did some research and couldn’t understand why it had been made a requirement for immigrants … I sent all the paper work in to the USCIS and said that my grand-daughter doesn’t want to have that vaccination. Today, almost a year later, I have received notice that they have determined she is inadmissible to the United States without it… [but] we can file the I-601 waiver with the fee!

    I am a single person, 62 years old working for $13,000 per year supporting myself and my adopted daughter and think it is ridiculous to have to pay another nearly $600 on top of the $1,700 I have already paid to do things the legal and correct way.”

This is a tremendous victory for the health and rights of immigrant women and girls! We should all celebrate the lifting of the mandate as a significant achievement.

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