Girl Rejects Gardasil, Loses Path to Citizenship

HPV vaccine required for immigrants

Born in Britain in 1992, Simone Davis got off to a rough start in life. Her biological mother abandoned her as a baby, and her father couldn't care for her.

At 3, her paternal grandmother Jean Davis got court orders giving her complete parental rights and responsibility to raise Simone until the age of 18.

Davis married an American in 2000 and moved them to Port St. Joe, Fla., but there was no equivalent guardianship in the United States. So for the last near decade, Davis has embarked on a quest to get Simone U.S. citizenship.

Now 17 and an aspiring elementary school teacher and devout Christian, Simone has only one thing standing in the way of her goal -- the controversial vaccine Gardasil.

VIDEO: A look at whether the benefits of a cervical cancer vaccine outweigh the risks.
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Immigration law mandates that Simone get the vaccine to protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical cancer.

But Simone, who has taken a virginity pledge and is not sexually active, doesn't see why she should have to take the vaccine, especially since it's been under fire recently regarding its safety .

And none of her American classmates is mandated by law to be vaccinated.

"I am only 17 years old and planning to go to college and not have sex anytime soon," said Simone. "There is no chance of getting cervical cancer, so there's no point in getting the shot."

Since 2008, the government has required that female immigrants between the ages of 11 through 26 applying for permanent resident or refugee status receive Gardasil, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006.

Simone and her adoptive mother she still calls "Nanny" sought a waiver for moral and religious reasons and were recently rejected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

That ruling threatens to separate Simone and Davis, and could dash the teen's plans to attend Pensacola Christian College, where she was conditionally accepted.

They were given 30 days to appeal or the teen would face being "removed."

The 1996 Immigration and Naturalization Act requires girls and women within a specified age group to receive the vaccination against certain specified diseases "and any other vaccinations recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.

Gardasil was added to the list of vaccines in 2008.

"The decision to include HPV as a required vaccine was made by the CDC," said Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan.

"We follow the law," she told ABCNews.com. "The objection to a waiver would have to be to all vaccines, not just Gardasil."

The CDC is expected to publish new criteria to determine which vaccines should be recommended for U.S. immigrants in about a month, according to spokeswoman Christine Pearson.

Simone's struggle began in 2000, when U.S. authorities did not recognize the British adoption papers, and the process began anew.

"We never heard from her mother again after she sent a third birthday card, and was never given a contact address," said Jean Davis, who is now 63, divorced, and a teacher. "I had no idea where she was."

The Salvation Army Missing Person's Bureau traced Simone's biological mother, and the American adoption was finalized in 2006.

Local churches helped pay more than $1,700 immigration application fees for Simone's permanent residency status, the first step toward citizenship. For another $585, Davis can appeal, but says she doesn't have the money.

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