Texas governor orders STD vaccine for all girls
Decision comes after maker of cervical cancer shot doubled lobbying efforts
AUSTIN, Texas – 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, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research
using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base.
But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one
that protects children against polio.
“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively
target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry said.
Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating
Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in
Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group
made up of female state legislators around the country.
Perry tied to Merck
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
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