Perry, Merck, Gardasil

Texas governor orders STD vaccine for all girls

Decision comes after maker of cervical cancer shot doubled lobbying efforts
Associated Press

Bypassing the Legislature altogether, Republican Gov. Rick Perry issued an order Friday making Texas the first state to require that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

By employing an executive order, Perry sidestepped opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents’ rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way Texans raise their children.

Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade — meaning, generally, girls ages 11 and 12 — will have to receive Gardasil, Merck & Co.’s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. In addition, he ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21…

…Perry has ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company’s three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff. His current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.

The governor also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.

The order is effective until Perry or a successor changes it, and the Legislature has no authority to repeal it, said Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody. Moody said the Texas Constitution permits the governor, as head of the executive branch, to order other members of the executive branch to adopt rules like this one…

…A top official from Merck’s vaccine division sits on Women in Government’s business council, and many of the bills around the country have been introduced by members of Women in Government.

The entire article is at MSNBC.

Related: RealClearPolitics, Rick Perry’s Gardasil Problem.

…Roughly 60 state lawmakers called on Perry to rescind the order. He refused. Just six weeks after Perry put pen to paper, the Texas House rebuked him on March 14, 2007, passing HB 1098, overturning his executive order by a vote of 119-21. The Senate followed suit the following month by a vote of 30-1.

Realizing both chambers had large enough majorities to override a veto, Perry opted to let the bill become law without his signature. On May 8, the day the law went into effect, Perry held a press conference surrounded by women touched by cervical cancer. He bemoaned the tenor of a debate that he asserted had been “hijacked by politics and posturing,” and blamed future cervical cancer deaths on those who opposed his mandate — many of whom were fellow Republicans…

…In response, the sponsor of HB 1098, Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, blasted Perry for “using cancer victims as his backdrop for an issue that he has grossly misjudged.”

“Just because you don’t want to offer up 165,000 11-year-old girls to be Merck’s study group doesn’t mean you don’t care about women’s health, doesn’t mean you don’t care about young girls,” Bonnen added.

And, in fact, two years later the National Vaccine Information Center issued a report raising serious questions over the harmful side effects of the drug. A few months after that, an editorial on Gardasil in the Journal of the American Medical Association declared that “serious questions regarding the overall effectiveness of the vaccine” needed to be answered and that more long-term studies were called for…


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