Things are definately heating up in the Lone Star state, with a hearing scheduled for Monday on legislation that would rescind Governor Perry’s order to have all 11-12 year old girls receive the vaccine. And some groups are surprised with their new allies they have sided with on this controversy.
Groups on both sides of the debate appear to have been energized by the executive order of Gov. Rick Perry on Feb. 2 mandating vaccination. Opponents have pounced on Gov. Perry’s ties to Merck and Women in Government. His former chief of staff is a lobbyist for Merck in the state and his wife, a nurse who has worked to promote health, once spoke at a Women in Government conference on cervical cancer.
“I looked at all of this and said, someone is playing politics,” said Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, a branch of Phyllis Schlafly’s national Eagle Forum, a conservative group that calls itself “pro-family.”
Citing various reasons, the Texas Medical Association is not currently supporting mandatory vaccination.
Dr. Carol Baker, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said that two other vaccines for adolescents that were approved in recent years — against meningitis and whooping cough — have not yet been mandated in Texas. “To mandate just one, in my view, is a little odd,” she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is not advocating mandatory Gardasil vaccination, either. One source of opposition from pediatricians is cost. Buying enough H.P.V. vaccine for 100 girls would require a practice to lay out nearly $40,000 in advance. Many doctors say that the insurance reimbursement for giving the vaccine is not adequate to compensate them for administering it.
Some are questioning where this sudden rush for mandatory vaccinations is coming from:
Typically new vaccines, like the one for chicken pox in the mid-1990’s, have been rolled out gradually in this country, with public health officials endorsing mandatory use only after several years of experience have shown the new products to be generally safe and effective.
Is it fear of competition?
Even before the vaccine’s approval, though, Merck had begun laying the political foundation in state legislatures to promote widespread vaccination of young girls.
Gardasil and another vaccine under development by the drug maker GlaxoSmithKline are aimed at the human papilloma virus, or H.P.V., which is known to be the cause of cervical cancer. Analysts see a potential $5 billion a year market for H.P.V. vaccines, and some say that Merck is intent on inoculating as many girls as possible before the introduction of Glaxo’s product, which could become available this year.
Or just the urgency of the situation? Merck’s president for vaccines:
Each and every day that a female delays getting the vaccine there is a chance she is exposed to human papilloma virus,” Ms. McGlynn said.
At any rate, the controversy around this mandatory inoculation won’t go away anytime soon.