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Una carga sobre las mujeres inmigrantes
We who fight for the rights of immigrant women are working to get a new requirement withdrawn, which forces young women to obtain an expensive and controversial vaccination.
This past July, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that anyone who wants to change her or his immigration status must get some new vaccinations.
One of these is Gardasil, the vaccine against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which prevents cancer of the cervix. Gardasil is the only HPV vaccine available in the United States, and it is the most expensive vaccine on the market. It costs at least $360 for the series of three injections. In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the vaccine, and this decision led to the legal mandate on the part of USCIS to require it in all immigration proceedings.
The new regulations that require the HPV vaccinations apply to women applicants between the ages of 11 and 26. This is the only vaccination requirement that applies solely to women; it is therefore a burden on female immigrants who are applying for a visa or for a change in their immigration status.
This burden succeeds in marginalizing, to an even greater extent, a group whose access to information and health services is already limited, in terms not only of the cost, but also of language and culture. For women who wish to change their status, the additional requirements of vaccination create tremendous barriers on the way to fulfilling one of the many steps to citizenship.
Latinas experience a rate of cervical cancer twice as high as that of white women. For this reason, we ought to be striving to augment education about HPV, and to ease their access to the vaccine, rather than putting up more obstacles in the onerous immigration process. The lack of health insurance, along with the high cost of the vaccine, limits the availability of the vaccine to immigrant women of low income.
Instead of dictating vaccinations for the bodies of immigrant women, the U.S. government ought to increase access to information and to health services, without impediments and which are culturally consistent and appropriate to the age of the person receiving them. A vaccination mandate directed only at young women who are not citizens is sexist and xenophobic, and succeeds only in increasing the anxieties this vaccine arouses among women in many communities of color.
Join the activists in demanding that the CDC remove the vaccine from the list of required vaccinations. Sign the petition on our blog: www.latinainstitute.wordpress.com.
Jessica González-Rojas is Deputy Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
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