Rick Perry caught in the hot seat over HPV vaccine order

According to The New American, controversy over an executive order issued by Rick Perry in 2007 is following the Texas Governor on the presidential campaign trail. In New Hampshire on Saturday and in Iowa on Monday, Perry faced questions about his order to have girls entering the sixth grade in Texas vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted disease and the cause of about 70% of all cervical cancer, according to the CDC.

Girls would be exempt from the order only if a parent or guardian signed an affidavit claiming a “conscientious objection.” The order, signed by the Governor on February 2, 2007, became the subject of sharp and widespread criticism and the Legislature promptly passed a law revoking it. According to the ABC News blog, “The Note,” Perry was asked about the controversial order during a backyard reception for the candidate at the home of state Rep. Pamela Tucker in Greenland, New Hampshire.

“I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” Perry said. “When you get too far out in front of the parade, they will let you know, and that’s exactly what our Legislature did, and I saluted it and I said, ‘Roger that, I hear you loud and clear.’ And they didn’t want to do it and we don’t, so enough said.”

However, according to the Texas Tribune, he has always defended his order and Saturday’s acknowledgement that he “didn’t do my research well enough” and “got too far out in front of the parade” was his first public admission that the order was a mistake. He said so explicitly in a listener call-in talk show Monday radio station WHO.

As recently as September of last year, Perry was still defending the order in an interview he gave during his reelection campaign. “Let me tell you why it wasn’t a bad idea: Even though that was the result I was looking for, and that (was) becoming the standard procedure for protecting young women against this very heinous deadly dreadful disease, it caused a national debate,” he said. “I knew I was going to take a political hit … at the end of the day, I did what was right from my perspective, and I did something that saved people’s lives and, you know, that’s a big deal.”

But critics say Perry may have had other motives in mind when he issued his executive order. It appears that the Governor had ties to Merck through a former chief of staff and he had also received campaign contributions from Merck in 2006.

Whatever his motive, Perry’s effort to establish law by executive order should raise concern for the separation of powers. Rightly anticipating strong opposition to the vaccination mandate among the state’s lawmakers, Perry simply bypassed the Legislature and established what he claimed was wise policy by executive fiat.

The vaccine, called Gardasil, is manufactured by Merck & Co, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. The drug was approved by the FDA in 2006 and the CDC recommended that all 11- and 12-year-old girls be vaccinated.

As of June 22, 2011 approximately 35 million doses of Gardasil were distributed in the U.S. and VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) received a total of 18,727 reports of adverse events following vaccination. Approximately 92% of reports have included fainting, pain, and swelling at the injection site, headache, nausea and fever. Guillain-Barré Syndrome and blood clots have also been reported. However, there has also been a total of 68 VAERS reports of death among those who have received Gardasil, which is where the majority of concern comes from.


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