During a news conference on Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) announced that he would let HB 1098, which rescinds his order that all girls entering the sixth grade be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), become law without his signature. The vaccine, called Gardasil, was approved in June 2006 to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. In February, Gov. Perry issued an executive order — which would have made Texas the first state to mandate HPV vaccination — that “initiated a national debate” that was “hijacked by politics and posturing,” Gov. Perry said on Tuesday.
The Republican majority immediately opposed Gov. Perry’s order and a group of parents filed a lawsuit challenging the policy. Finally, opponents defeated the mandatory vaccination program by solidly passing legislation banning mandatory administration of the vaccine until 2011. While Gov. Perry considered vetoing the bill, he admitted that the legislature had sufficient votes to overturn his veto. “Rather than allowing this issue to be held captive one more day by legislative politics and the inevitable posturing that will ensure during a veto override debate, I have decided to let it become law without my signature,” Gov. Perry said. “It is time to move this issue from the political arena to the court of public opinion where real lives are at stack, and it is time to do so without delay.”
Surrounded by women who had been affected by HPV and cervical cancer, Gov. Perry chastised the legislature for sending him “a bill that will ensure three-quarters of our young women will be susceptible to a virus that not only kills hundreds each year, but causes great discomfort and harm to thousands more.” He continued, speaking about the lives and health of women that would be protected with a mandatory vaccine policy.
In addition to the public health benefits of his order, Gov. Perry pointed out that HPV vaccinations made fiscal sense. According to Perry, providing the vaccine through the Vaccines for Children program and Medicaid would cost less than $13 million per year, while the annual cost of treating HPV-related cervical diseases amounts to some $173 million.