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Did Merck Lobbyists Pay For the HPV Vaccine Mandate in Texas?

One day after Merck publicly announced the end of its latest aggressive marketing program for the human papillomavirus vaccine, Gardasil, a number of news sources (starting with the Associated Press), have learned about behind-the-scenes relationships that may have led to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent executive HPV order that bypassed the legislature.

It's all about the timing, folks. Perry's chief of staff, Deirdre Delisi, met with other staffers about the HPV vaccine on the very same day last October Merck donated $5,000 to the incumbent governor's campaign and a similar amount to eight other Texas lawmakers. Delisi also met with her predecessor, now a Merck lobbyist, three times during the six months before Perry issued the executive order.

Moreover, on the very same day Texans re-elected Perry, one of his policy advisors sent e-mails to two lobbyists representing Merck about the cost of providing the HPV vaccine to low-income residents.

Perry felt the executive order would be unquestioned, as it had been discussed by him and his gubernatorial opponent Chris Bell during the last campaign with no reported controversy. That is, until the governor issued an executive order bypassing the Texas legislature to mandate the HPV vaccine for young girls on Feb. 2.

Even more alarming was the chatter among Perry's staffers, according to e-mail trails uncovered by various news sources, who worried about sounding too friendly toward Merck, and one in particular who felt the news release announcing the order sounded like a Merck commercial.

The good news is that mounting opposition in the Texas legislature may lead to an override of Perry's order as soon as mid-March. Still, all these shenanigans didn't stop the Kentucky House from voting to require the vaccine yesterday (although it still needs approval in the Senate to go anywhere).

Don't be fooled. Your child doesn't need another useless and very expensive vaccine, as HPV is almost completely avoidable.

Austin American-Statesman February 23, 2007

Yahoo News February 22, 2007

East Valley Tribune.com February 21, 2007