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
But 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
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
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
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.
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:
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call the Citizen’s Opinion
Hotline at 800-252-9600 (for Texas residents), or 512-463-1782 (for
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.
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