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U.S. Requiring Controversial Vaccine

The Department of Homeland Security, against the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control, is requiring girls and young women who immigrate to the U.S. to get a controversial vaccine for a cervical cancer virus.

Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, is the first government agency to mandate that all females ages 11 to 26 years old be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, or HPV. There is no requirement for any other visa holders or U.S. citizens.

Since Homeland Security implemented the vaccination policy, the estimated 233,000 females ages 11 to 26 who entered the country as prospective citizens paid about a combined $52 million for one dose, based on the $223 cost for one treatment borne by the typical U.K. emigrant and average numbers taken from the Department of Homeland Security's "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics" over a four-year period.

Although one dose satisfies the Homeland Security vaccination protocol, three vaccinations, given over six months, are needed to be effective, according to Merck (MRK), maker of the vaccine.

Jon Abramson, an infectious diseases expert and chairman of the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, or ACIP, when Homeland Security implemented the requirement in April 2007, advised against making the HPV vaccine mandatory at the time.

"I am stunned. It was not the intention of the policy to mandate vaccination of immigrants," Abramson said, adding that vaccination policies are designed to protect the populace, not individuals. "This is not a disease that is communicable like SARS or pandemic flu or even measles."

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