Texas HPV Vaccine Mandate

Texas Two Step – HPV Vaccine Mandate

Is “travesty” too strong a word? Maybe “sham” would be less dramatic. Or “mockery” might be more accurate.

Let’s compromise. Let’s say all three words accurately describe the shocking order that Texas Governor Rick Perry issued last week, making his state the first in the union to mandate that all girls entering sixth grade receive a vaccine that protects against certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

gardasil_vidBut in addition to travesty, sham, and mockery, let’s add the word “generous,” because Gov. Perry’s order turns out to be a very generous gift to the people of Texas? No. Not even close. It’s a generous gift to Merck, the maker of the vaccine.

Easy to avoid

Gardasil is the name of the vaccine, and it’s been shown to be very effective against HPV strains that cause the majority of cervical cancers.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? And that’s exactly what the TV ads for Gardasil would have you believe. Give a girl the vaccine when she’s young and not yet sexually active, and you’ll sharply reduce the chances that she’ll pick up the sexually transmitted HPV.

But it’s one thing for a parent to decide to have their daughter vaccinated, and it’s quite another to have that decision MANDATED by the government. And here are three reasons why:

1) When women have annual gynecological exams, HPV is easily detected and treated. So it’s not as if every woman is at risk for this cancer – only those who neglect to schedule regular exams.

2) Each vaccine costs $360, which will quickly add up to millions, paid for by insurance companies or by the state of Texas in cases where young girls are not insured.

3) The possible long-term side effects of Gardasil are not yet known.

All tied up

So given the unknown long-term side effects, the exorbitant cost of Gardasil, and the fact that HPV cervical cancer is easily avoided, why would Gov. Perry mandate that every female sixth-grader in Texas receive the vaccine? And why would he do it in such a way that would completely bypass the Texas Legislature (overriding debate and oversight)?

Could the ties that Gov. Perry has with Merck have a little something to do with it?

According to the Associated Press, Merck’s political action committee donated $6,000 to Gov. Perry’s recent campaign for re-election. But that’s just part of the picture. An advocacy group called Women in Government is heading up the effort to persuade state legislatures across the country to make Gardasil vaccinations mandatory, and Merck is funding the Women in Government efforts.

This is where it all gets more than a little sticky for Gov. Perry. The AP reports that his former chief of staff is a Texas lobbyist for Merck, and the mother-in-law of Perry’s current chief of staff is a state director for Women in Government.

Texas hotline

I don’t know about you, but I find all of this infuriating. It’s bad enough that this unnecessary vaccine will be mandatory in Texas. But the fact that Gov. Perry seems to have Merck’s best interests in mind – at the expense of his Texas constituents – is intolerable.

According to the AP, the Texas Legislature cannot repeal Gov. Perry’s order, so it will be in effect until the governor or his successor changes it. Nevertheless, I’ve already written an e-mail to the Governor’s office (and I hope you will too) at this address: publicrecords@governor.state.tx.us. You can also call the Citizen’s Opinion Hotline at 800-252-9600 (for Texas residents), or 512-463-1782 (for out-of-state callers).

But that’s just a start.

If you know a parent of a young girl in Texas, I’m sure they’ve heard all about this controversy. What they may not have heard, however, is that parents in Texas can avoid any mandatory vaccine by asking their doctor how to file an affidavit stating that they object to the vaccine.

And finally, you can contact the legislature in your state to voice your opinion about Merck’s efforts to make Gardasil a mandatory vaccine. On the web site for Women in Government (womeningovernment.org) you’ll find a U.S. map that details the status of the Merck initiative in your state.

You can read more about the HPV vaccine in Michele Cagan’s blog on the HSI web site. You’ll find her insightful posting on this topic – titled “Cancer Vaccine Push Gets Merck-y” – at this link: http://hsi.sharpseo.com/