Rick Perry’s Gardasil Problem

Saturday, August 20, 2011
By Paul Martin

by Tom Bevan
Real Clear Politics

As first reported by RealClearPolitics, allies of Texas Gov. Rick Perry have begun to quietly “nose around on his behalf” regarding a possible presidential campaign.

Last Wednesday, Perry conceded to Fox News’ Greta van Susteren that he was “tempted” by a run for the White House. Two days later, in response to a question about a 2012 bid, Perry told the Austin American-Statesman, “I’m going to think about it.”

A Perry run makes some sense. He’s a three-term governor from a large Republican state with a solidly conservative record. And even at this somewhat late date, many grass-roots activists and members of the establishment alike are searching for a candidate with a profile (not unlike Perry’s) who can satisfy their respective needs and, ideally, unite the party.

But if Rick Perry does step under the bright lights, there’s at least one question that has the potential to hinder his pursuit of the GOP nomination: Why in early 2007 did he sign an executive order mandating that 11- and 12-year-old girls in Texas be given the vaccine Gardasil?

Gardasil was developed to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most commonly transmitted sexual disease in the United States. In June 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, which is made by the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. The treatment was initially hailed as a breakthrough in protecting against four strains of HPV that are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts.

In January 2007, Gardasil was put on the “recommended” immunization schedule issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control. Merck immediately mounted a massive lobbying effort of state legislatures around the country to get Gardasil added to their respective lists of state-mandated vaccines.

But in Texas, Gov. Perry chose to bypass the legislature and on Feb. 2, 2007, he issued an executive order making Texas the first state in the country requiring all sixth-grade girls to receive the three-shot vaccination series (which cost about $120 per shot). The move generated a fierce public debate. Conservatives slammed Perry for promoting what they saw as an intrusion by the state into private health decisions of parents and their children. Some also complained that the mandate would encourage promiscuity among teenagers.

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