Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade — meaning, generally, girls 11 and 12 — will have to receive Gardasil, Merck's new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).A cynic might accuse Perry of sitting safely in the pocket of Merck, which stands to gain millions from the new policy--but then, why would Perry spend so much political capital by risking the anger of his supporters?
Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. In addition, he ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women 19 to 21....
Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical-cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.
"The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," Perry said.
The shots will cost the state $50 million the first year.
On the other side, conservative opponents sound pretty foolish:
Cathie Adams, who heads the Texas Eagle Forum, said she was "very sad" Perry issued the order and warned that state health officials and Merck are usurping the role traditionally played by parents.Nothing like principled distortion of the facts.
"I am absolutely opposed that Merck and the state government are planning to inject young girls with a cancer-causing virus," Adams said.
Scientists, however, say the HPV vaccine uses particles that look like the virus on the outside but aren't infectious. The particles trick the body into thinking it has been infected, prompting the development of immunity to the virus.
Texas allows a faith-based or philosophical objection to vaccination. According to the CDC, approximately 80% of women over the age of 50 carry the virus.
Update: Be sure to read the comments for reader stickdog's skeptical questions. Also, check out Eugene Volokh's examination of mandatory HPV vaccination from a libertarian perspective.