Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick hit: US to require Gardasil for immigrants

As Jill at Feministe said:

I am all for making Gardasil more accessible and affordable. I think there’s a good argument to be made for making it a mandatory vaccine for school-age children — with an easy voluntary opt-out clause — because in many states that’s the only way that low-income families will be able to afford it, since mandatory vaccines are more likely to be covered by Medicaid (I also think there’s a better argument against it, but that’s another post). I think there’s a very good (and obviously widely-accepted) common-sense argument to be made for making certain vaccines mandatory for new immigrants or visitors to the U.S. — and some vaccines for highly communicable and airborne diseases are mandatory. That’s reasonable.

But making the HPV vaccine a requirement? It’s both unnecessary and frightening. It’s also shamelessly xenophobic.
Indeed it is - foreigners as sexual threat, anyone? Ick.

There has been a lot of press about adverse reactions, but thus far I think it has been overblown. Given the public concerns and some degree of real uncertainty, it's appropriate right now to back off of plans to mandate Gardasil for U.S. schoolchildren. If and when these fears die down, mandating the vaccine for schoolchildren will make good sense. For now, promoting voluntary vaccination still makes sense to me, though we should remember that (as was recently said at RH Reality Check) there's more to HPV prevention than Gardasil.

But making it a condition for immigration, without covering the cost, is just another unfair barrier. Vaccination is a good thing, but HPV does not pose anything like the kind of epidemiological threat that would justify requiring it in this circumstance. Moreover, the considerable ($300+) cost of Gardasil will no doubt be (yet) a(nother) barrier for some individuals and families.

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