Governor requires HPV vaccine for sixth-grade girls
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Gov. Rick Perry on Friday issued an executive order calling for all
girls entering sixth grade in Texas, starting in September 2008, to
receive a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that causes
cervical cancer. While Texas parents will be allowed to opt out of
having their daughters get the vaccine, conservative groups are protesting.
Texas is the first state requiring girls to be vaccinated against
human papillomavirus, the country's most common sexually transmitted
disease. Some strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, a disease that
killed nearly 400 Texans in 2006, the governor's office said.
"The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to
effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," Perry said.
"Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into
contact with HPV is responsible health and fiscal policy that has the
potential to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer and
mitigate future medical costs."
But Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, a pro-family
organization that opposes mandating the vaccine, said it gives girls
false hope that sex is safe.
"We're very unhappy because it's not a crisis, because parental
rights are being usurped and we believe young girls are being
experimented upon," Adams said. "Would they be more promiscuous?
Chances are very good that they would be."
Perry ordered that the vaccine be made immediately available to
low-income Texans through the Texas Vaccines for Children and
That would cost $50 million in the first year: $29.4 million in state
funds and the rest in federal funds, said Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody.
The market cost of the vaccine, Gardasil, is $360 for the three-dose series.
Federal officials approved the vaccine in June and added it to a list
of recommended vaccines for girls. Most insurance companies cover
vaccines on that list.
Merck, the drug company that makes Gardasil, is bankrolling efforts
to pass state laws across the country mandating the vaccine 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 received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during
his re-election campaign. And one of the drug company's three
lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff.
"This is not a political issue," Moody said. "This is an issue of
women's health." State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, author of a
bill proposing a required HPV vaccine for girls, said Perry's order
is "terrific news."
"A big chunk of my work is done," said Farrar, who said she had
precancerous cells removed a few years ago after having an abnormal
Pap smear. "I'm very excited he's made this such a priority. This is
going to save so many lives. This is going to wipe out a cancer."