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By September of 2008, all girls in entering sixth grade in Texas will be required to be vaccinated with shots of Gardasil, the only HPV vaccine currently available, provided by drug-maker Merck. Merck itself has been lobbying to make the vaccines mandatory across the country after the government approved Gardasil in June of last year. A government advisory panel recommended that all girls aged 11 or 12 get the shot before they become sexually active, and 18 states are currently considering making the shots mandatory, but Texas is the first state to actually require the vaccines.
"This mandatory vaccination policy is a huge win for Merck, one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, but it's an enormous loss for the health of young girls and health freedom in general," explained Mike Adams, author of "Natural Health Solutions." "These pro-vaccine pushes are such obvious profiteering ploys by Big Pharma that I'm amazed anyone still buys into it."
Perry's stance on the vaccine is that it is the same as requiring polio vaccinations for children. Dr. Louis Cooper, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, backed up this assertion when he told the Los Angeles times that the vaccines for polio, measles, mumps and rubella that came out in the 1950s and '60s did not significantly affect disease statistics until the states made them mandatory for enrollment in schools.
Supporters of Perry's bill say Gardasil is a lifesaving drug, and point out that most insurance companies cover it. Another fact that has supporters backing the vaccine is that cervical cancer kills as many as 3,700 American women annually, and no serious side effects have yet been linked with the vaccine. There is an affidavit that Texas parents can fill out if they object on religious or philosophical grounds to their children having the shot, but many opponents say that this doesn't erase the mandate's obstruction of parental authority over medical decisions for children.
The virus known as HPV has more than 100 different strains, which are usually very treatable. Roughly 30 types of HPV are sexually transmitted and are the direct cause of as many as 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases, according to the American Society for Clinical Investigation. The fact that the virus is usually sexually transmitted is one reason why many people oppose making the vaccine mandatory. To be most effective, the vaccine has to be administered before a girl's first sexual experience, which has some conservative opponents claiming that administering the shots at such an early age is tantamount to giving permission for underage sex. Other opponents say the shots are a clear-cut case of patients' rights violation.
"It is an affront to the freedom of Americans and a form of medical enslavement by a system of government that is increasingly owned and operated by powerful corporations," Adams said. "Make no mistake, this isn't about public health, it's about exploiting the bodies of little girls to generate obscene corporate profits."
Gardasil is currently available at a cost of $360 per three-shot regimen, which means that the company would make billions of dollars if mandatory vaccines were implemented nationwide. Much of Merck's funds to this end are being focused through the women's advocacy group Women in Government, which is comprised of female state legislators from across the nation.
According to the Associated Press, Perry has connections to both Merck and Women in Government. His former Chief of Staff Mike Toomey is one of Merck's lobbyists in Texas; Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Texas, is a state director for Women in Government as well as the mother-in-law of Perry's current chief of staff, Dierdre Delisi; and Merck sent Perry $6,000 through its political action committee during his reelection campaign in 2005.
A similar proposal to Perry's mandate was brought before the government in Scotland, aimed at both girls and boys as young as 9, but was shot down by parents who complained that the vaccine was inappropriate for such young children. However, Scottish authorities are still considering the vaccine for girls aged 12 and older. Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R-Mich., also managed to push a mandatory HPV bill through the House and the Senate before a second vote by the House killed it.