U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently released a mandate requiring immigrating girls and young women to provide proof of human papillomavirus vaccination (HPV) before obtaining U.S. citizenship. Gardasil, the major brand name under Merck & Co., is used to prevent infection of HPV, which causes 70 percent of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital wart cases. The new regulation goes against the advice of John Abramson, a chairman of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), who says that HPV is not a highly communicable disease like SARS or pandemic flu and therefore should not be a required vaccination. Furthermore, Gardasil is not a mandatory vaccination for U.S. citizens, making it seem as though the U.S. is treating immigrating citizens as test subjects for a highly priced vaccine that has many reported side effects, one being death.
Since Gardasil was approved by the FDA in June 2006, there have been nearly ten thousand bad reactions and 21 deaths reported. Side effects included 10 miscarriages, 78 occurrences of acute genital warts and six cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can cause paralysis. Recently, three women in Australia fell ill with Pancreatitis shortly after receiving the Gardasil vaccine. They experienced fever, rash, severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Additionally, researches in Australia have found that young women who received Gardasil were five to twenty times more likely to have rare and severe allergic reactions compared to other vaccines.
In addition to the side effects of Gardasil, the high cost of the vaccination may prevent otherwise legitimate immigrant women from obtaining citizenship. The three shot vaccine costs $162 per shot without health insurance. Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress, thinks that this could prevent a lot of women from gaining U.S. citizenship: “Given Gardasil’s high cost, and the fact that there does not seem to be a public health justification for this particular mandate, I’m concerned that its real purpose is to create a financial barrier for immigrant women who seek to lawfully enter this country.”
Furthermore, the benefits of Gardasil may not outweigh the billions of dollars being spent. The American Cancer Association estimates that in 2008 there will be just over 11 thousand women diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is highly curable and with an early detection Pap smear, deaths have already dropped 74 percent. It’s estimated that less than 1 percent of cancer deaths in women are from cervical cancer. Instead of spending billions on Gardasil, one alternative may be to invest money in ensuring that all young women are regularly screened.
Have you or someone you know been affected by this new mandate? Have you been diagnosed with HPV or cervical cancer? Have you experienced side effects from the HPV vaccine? Please share your experiences and opinions!