CDC Officially Reverses HPV Vaccine Requirement for Immigrant Women

By Rachel Walden — November 18, 2009

Last week, the CDC issued revised vaccination criteria for U.S. immigration which will reverse the requirement that female immigrants seeking permanent residence or entry to the U.S. be immunized against HPV.

The new criteria require that any mandated vaccine must be age-appropriate for the immigrant applicant, and must either protect against a disease that has the potential to cause an outbreak or protect against a disease that has been eliminated or is in the process of being eliminated in the United States. As HPV does not meet these criteria, the vaccine will no longer be required starting next month (30 days after publication in the Federal Register).

We have written several times about the requirement, including the CDC’s initial comment on the matter and various action alerts/campaigns asking the agency to reverse the requirement.

As we and others noted, the requirement was problematic for multiple reasons, such 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.

In the revised criteria document, published in Friday’s Federal Register, HPV vaccination is specifically addressed as follows:

CDC has applied the criteria and determined that once these criteria become effective December 14, 2009, the HPV vaccine will not be required for aliens seeking admission as an immigrant or seeking adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence….Therefore, while HPV may be an age-appropriate vaccine for an immigrant applicant, HPV neither causes outbreaks nor is it associated with outbreaks (per explanation in the background section). Further, HPV has not been eliminated, nor is in the process of elimination, in the United States. Therefore, because HPV does not meet the adopted criteria, it will not be a required vaccine for immigrant and adjustment of status to permanent residence applicants.

Under the new criteria, the zoster (chicken pox) vaccine will also be removed from the requirements. The agency continues to recommend the two vaccines for U.S. citizens, but vaccine recommendations will no longer be automatically translated to mandates for immigration.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice issued a statement commending the agency for the change and for “recognizing that all women and girls—regardless of their immigration status—must be treated with dignity in the context of any medical procedure, including the HPV vaccine.”

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