Gov. Rick Perry of Texas recently ordered that all girls entering the sixth grade in that state be vaccinated against cervical cancer. The mandate has become a source of controversy from more than one angle. Does a governor have the right to make such an order? Is the vaccine safe? Could it promote sexual promiscuity? What role does Merck – the company that developed and produces the vaccine – play in all this? Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council and Dr. Janet Phoenix of the National Research Center For Women And Families debated the issue on “Power Lunch.”
A little background: The FDA approved Gardasil, Merck’s cervical cancer vaccine, last June. Since its approval, Merck’s stock has risen 30%. Analysts say the pharmaceutical company will make between $1 billion and $4 billion over the next five years if other states follow Texas’ lead. There are currently 18 other states considering the same measure.
Some have taken issue with Merck’s lobbying of the drug, saying Gov. Perry’s office is cozying up with the drugmaker, especially considering Perry’s former chief of staff had a role in the lobbying campaign (Merck spent up to $250,000 lobbying in Texas this year, according to The Associated Press. It has also lobbied to give the vaccine for free to low-income children. The vaccine costs $360 for three shots).