Kudos (and apologies!) to Professor BlackWoman from WOC Ph.D., who alerted me last month to this outrage. (While you’re over there, check out her nice new design and software.) I’ve been meaning to follow up on this, but Friday’s Denver Post lit a fire under my butt when it ran this story from the AP wire:
A new mandate requiring girls as young as 11 to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus before they can become legal U.S. residents is unfair, immigration advocates say.
The federal rule, which took effect July 1, added Gardasil to the list of vaccinations that female immigrants ages 11 to 26 must get before they can obtain “green cards.”
The series of three shots over six months protects against the strains of the human papillomavirus blamed for most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. But the vaccine is one of the most expensive on the market and controversial.
“This is a huge economic, social and cultural barrier to immigrants who are coming into America,” said Tuyet Duong, senior staff attorney for the Immigration and Immigrant Rights Program at the Asian American Justice Center.
At a cost of $400, Gardasil places an added burden on green card applicants already paying more than a thousand dollars in form fees and hundreds of dollars for mandatory medical exams, advocates say.
I’m on the record as supporting the vaccine for all girls, and have criticized parents for not embracing this vaccine because they can’t bring themselves to admit that their daughters may one day have sex with men. (I also hate the whole vaccines cause autism excuse too, but Gardasil is in a class of its own with the kinds of criticism it has received.) But, if your excuse is that you don’t have $400, well then, that’s a damned good reason not to get the vaccine. (Paging Universal Health Care–hello? Hello?)
Is this federal law really about safeguarding either women’s health or the public health, or is it about putting up another barrier for immigrant women when no such requirement exists for girls and women who are U.S. citizens? Interestingly, this concern is shared by the very people at the Centers for Disease Control who initially approved and recommended the Gardasil vaccine:
The route by which the measure became law, however, was both roundabout and—according to the head of the committee that prompted the change—unintentional.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Gardasil vaccine, made by New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc., in 2006. Then last year, an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccinations for girls 11 or 12.
For U.S. citizens, the committee’s recommendations serve only to provide guidance on immunization issues. But a 1996 change to the nation’s immigration laws required anyone seeking permanent residency to get all the vaccinations recommended by the committee.
Jon Abramson, who chaired the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said the panel never intended to require Gardasil for immigrants and wasn’t aware its recommendation would become mandatory.
“This is an unintended consequence,” Abramson told The Associated Press. “We didn’t even know about the law.”
Abramson, chair of the pediatrics department at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said he supports Gardasil for its potential benefits to women and girls, but believes it should be optional.
Amen. If this rule is not amended, it will serve as a punishing tax reserved for immigrant women. It also raises all kinds of suspicions in my paranoid feminist mind, suspicions about the bodies of poor brown women being subjected to medical experimentation against their will. Professor BW wrote about this very thoroughly here–and don’t say “it can’t happen here,” because it can, and it probably does more often than we hear about.