Women’s Health, Immigrant Rights, and Reproductive Justice Organizations Write the CDC to Oppose HPV Vaccination Requirement
By Rachel Walden — January 12, 2009
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is coordinating the creation of a letter to the CDC opposing the newly-imposed requirement that female immigrants ages 11 to 26, seeking permanent residence or entry to the U.S. be immunized against the human papillomavirus (HPV).
We’ve written about this issue in the past, noting that the CDC has indicated that they did not intend for this vaccine to be required for legal status, and the National Women’s Health Network’s action alert requesting calls to your Senators and Representatives asking for the removal of the vaccine from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requirements.
The NAPAWF letter asks that the CDC reexamine and “modify its current system of adding new vaccination requirements for immigrants to prevent future unintended additions to the list of mandatory vaccinations and undue burdens on immigrants.”
It also outlines several of concerns about the vaccine requirement, including the lack of a sufficient threat to public health, the lack of requirement that U.S. citizens receive the vaccine series, and the high cost which creates a financial barrier for immigrant women.
Finally, the letter acknowledges related concerns about health disparities women of color:
Research that disaggregates data based on race and ethnicity show that cervical cancer has a disproportionate impact on certain immigrants… However, the CDC’s and USCIS’s decision to mandate Gardasil for young immigrant women will not resolve these health disparities. For many immigrant women, the high expense of medical care, the lack of health insurance, and the difficulty in finding culturally competent services means that they forego routine preventative health care services such as pap smears. These inequalities in access contribute to the high rates of cervical cancer among immigrant women. While we support safe medical technologies that protect women’s health, mandating the use of medical procedures will not fully improve immigrant women’s lives.
We believe our focus should be on strengthening culturally-competent outreach efforts, increasing access to preventative health care services, such as Pap smears, for all groups of women facing a disproportionate risk of cancer. We also believe that all women should have the same right to informed decision-making over whether or not they want to get vaccinated against HPV.
Organizations can sign on to the letter prior to Friday, January 16 by emailing Nancy Chung of NAPAWF at nchung at napawf dot org.
For stories from individual women about this requirement, more information, and some of the organizing NAPAWF and other reproductive justice organizations are involved in- we’ve produced a half-hour radio documentary on the topic. The program is called “Guard Us All? Immigrant Women and the HPV Vaccine.” You can listen here:
Advocates argue that this vaccine is a new chapter in a history of reproductive oppression that targets women of color and immigrant women. On this edition of “Making Contact,” we have the voices of activists, doctors, attorneys and women most affected by the vaccination requirement.
Fatima Quraishi, Pakistani immigrant; Priscilla Huang, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum policy and programs director; Dr. Deblina Datta, CDC division of STD Prevention; Jessica Gonzalez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health director of policy and advocacy; Loretta Ross, SisterSong founding member; Beth Stickney, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project executive director and attorney; Woman client (name withheld for confidentiality and safety), immigrant from Chile; Nial Cox Ramirez, and Elaine Riddick Jessie, residents of North Carolina and subjects of sterilization.