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Friday, February 2nd 2007

Ah, Perry, You Ol' Dog…

Texas is the first state to require the HPV vaccine! (I’m really into exclamation marks right now).

Texas on Friday became the first state to require all 11- and 12-year-old girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

Averting a potentially divisive debate in the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed an executive order mandating shots of the Merck vaccine Gardasil as protection against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, starting in September 2008.

The order won’t live up to all public health pundits’ expectations, seeing as those who object can opt out. I think that is the right move personally. With that provision I applaud the move by my Governor.

Opposition has centered not only around the age old question of the rights of parents to keep their children from being vaccinated but also around the vaccine, given to such young girls, being a form of acceptance of sexual activity at a young age.

The governor’s executive order directing his Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules mandating the HPV inoculations along with others required for schoolchildren saved legislators from having to go on record for or against a bill involving child sexuality.

Some parents have voiced concern that the plan could send a message that sexual activity was condoned or that vaccinations made it safe. On the whole, however, conservative and religious groups have not come out strongly against the vaccinations as long as families can opt out.

It is of note that Merck is represented in Austin by a powerful lobbying group headed by Governor Perry’s former Chief-of-Staff.

Merck is manufacturer of the HPV vaccine.

A Merck spokesman, Raymond F. Kerins Jr., declined to discuss the company’s lobbying efforts in Austin, part of a nationwide campaign that has enlisted women in state legislatures to advance the program.

“Merck’s goal is to support efforts to implement policies that ensure that Gardasil is used to achieve what it was designed to do: help reduce the burden of cervical cancer,” Mr. Kerins said.

I’m proud of Texas.