Pharmaceutical

CDC drops Gardasil from list of must-have vaccines for immigants

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently rescinded its controversial and, some argued, discriminatory requirement that all girls and women ages 11 to 26 immigrating to the United States receive at least one injection of Gardasil, Merck’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

The directive went into effect in July of last year, mandating Gardasil shots for immigrant females despite mounting evidence that the shots could cause serious injury and death. The shots were also required of females who posed no risk of contracting or spreading HPV to the wider population.

In determining which vaccines immigrants are required to have, the CDC’s rule of thumb is that the vaccine must target viruses that could potentially cause an outbreak and viruses that either have been eliminated from the United States or are in the process of elimination. HPV does not fit any of the criteria.

Immigrants are still required to undergo a series of 15 other vaccinations before gaining U.S. resident status and citizenship. Neither federal health officials nor the pharmaceutical companies have tested the safety of vaccinations in combination. No research has been conducted on the interaction of Gardasil vaccines with other vaccines and what adverse effects such cocktails could have on the recipient.

Soon after the CDC added Gardasil to the list of required vaccines for immigrants, more than 100 advocacy groups representing women, immigrants, and consumer health challenged the requirement, protesting that it was unfair to require HPV vaccines for immigrants but not all U.S. citizens.

Merck had been lobbying hard to make the vaccines mandatory for all school-age American girls, but their plans were strongly opposed by an unlikely band of abstinence-only conservatives, Big Pharma critics, individual parents and parent groups, a growing anti-vaccine movement, and a number of consumer advocacy and women’s rights groups.

The 3-shot series costs between $300 and $1,000, putting a financial strain on immigrants already burdened by thousands of dollars in application fees and mandatory medical exams. Mandatory Gardasil vaccinations would have provided Merck with a revenue stream of at least $4 billion annually.