Young Immigrant Women: Pick Your Poison

GardasilImmigrant women migrating to the United States now have the option to choose between either Gardasil or Cervarix for their required vaccination against sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV).

The vaccine is mandatory for women 15 to 26 entering the U.S. as part of their immigrant application process. It does little to prevent HPV and uses young immigrant women as guinea pigs for experimenting vaccines without incurring the expense of clinical trials. The burden of cost falls squarely on immigrant women and neither vaccines are covered by most insurance companies.

The mandatory vaccines play on more than just the ‘dirty immigrant’ metaphor. A quick search brings up many Gardasil horror stories. With worldwide sales reaching $1.8 billion in 2008, the vaccine is linked to at least 32 deaths. The makers of Gardasil, Merck & Co, provided grants to professional medical associations to help promote the vaccine who neglected to provide a balanced review of the costs and benefits of the required vaccine, raising questions about medical ethics.

A young immigrant woman is even facing deportation because she refuses to take Gardasil and one can hardly blame her. Maybe Cervavix could give her the much-sought after green card. The reputation of Cervavix was already tainted before FDA approval as it was allegedly linked to the death of a British teenager. It may be safer than Gardasil but it is too early to make a qualified statement.

Some competition might help to ease the pains brought to young women and their families through Gardasil but it gets worse. In the interest of gender parity, the FDA has also approved Gardasil for young boys with a CDC advisory panel set against it. If young women have to take this poison, so should young men. The government has given complete immunity to the vaccine makers should there be any “complications” so that liability lawsuits do not end up at either Merck or GlaxoSmithKline.

Winner: Merck & Co and GlaxoSmithKline.

(Photo: Creative Commons Attribution)

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