AUSTIN, Texas - Republican Gov. Rick Perry issued an order Friday making Texas the first state to require that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
By employing an executive order, Mr. Perry sidestepped opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents' rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way Texans raise their children.
Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade will have to get Gardasil, Merck & Co.'s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Mr. Perry also directed state authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. He also ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21.
Merck is bankrolling efforts to mandate Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.
One of Merck's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Mr. Perry's former chief of staff. His current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.
Mr. Perry also got $6,000 from Merck's political action committee for his re-election campaign.
Legislative aides said they are looking for ways around the order for parents who oppose it.
TRENTON, N.J. - Cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil is getting used less than doctors would like. Many are refusing to stock it because of its $360 price for the three doses required and "totally inadequate" reimbursement from most insurers.
- Associated Press