Facing questions in New Hampshire last weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was confronted by someone wanting to know why he ordered all Texas girls to receive a series of injections to vaccinate them against human pappiloma virus (HPV), even without the completion of long term studies on the drug.
According to ABC News's The Note, he replied: "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."
His mandate was almost immediately repudiated by Republicans across the state. The legislature revoked Perry's order six weeks later.
"But here’s what I learned," Perry added in New Hampshire last week. "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."
He instead suggested that people should just "opt in" for vaccines on their own initiative.
Despite its promise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's initial study of Gardasil found that in initial testing, over 16,000 adverse events were reported following vaccinations, and as many as 8 percent were considered to be serious. A long term study was not completed before the drug was offered at market and the National Vaccine Information Center has since raised questions about the initial testing methodology and the severity of Gardasil's side effects.
When Perry became the only governor in the U.S. to order all girls between 11 and 12 be injected with Gardasil -- a three-shot regiment at $360 total -- his administration's ties to Merck immediately came under scrutiny.
It soon became public knowledge that Mike Toomy, Perry's former chief of staff, had gone to work for Merck as a lobbyist. Rep. Dianne White Delisi, then head of the House public health committee, also led a group called Women in Government, which Merck used to generate support for Gardasil among lawmakers -- and her son-in-law was a high-ranking Perry aide. Merck also donated about $6,000 to Perry's reelection campaign.
Perry's remarks in New Hampshire mark the first time he's walked back from his position on the Gardasil vaccine.
"In the next year, more than a thousand women will likely be diagnosed with this insidious yet mostly preventable disease," Perry told Texas Republicans in 2007, rebuking them for rejecting his order.
"I challenge legislators to look these women in the eyes and tell them, 'We could have prevented this disease for your daughters and granddaughters, but we just didn't have the gumption to address all the misguided and misleading political rhetoric.'"
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