Last Friday, conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry did something that astounded the public health community. By executive order, he mandated vaccination for girls as young as 11 against the human papilloma virus, which causes most cervical cancer later in life.
He did so probably for the wrong reasons. He took legislators off the hook lest they had to vote against parents who would rather have their daughters die of cancer than be told there is a sexual component to the disease. And by having the state mandate a drug, insurance will have to pay for it and the result will be a windfall profit for Merck & Co., Inc., the maker of the vaccine and employer of Perry’s former chief of staff. But he did do it.
The politics of cynicism and corporate greed are at work again (yawn) but so long as HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and so long as the vaccine is most effective before a female is sexually active, and so long as a substantial majority of young people are having sex while still in high school – so what?
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia are considering such legislation, and wouldn’t it be ironic if a governor with not much else to his credit led the movement to prevent cancer?