Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Glenn Hegar, District 18

For Immediate Release
February 5, 2007
Contact: Lisa Craven
(512) 463-0118

Senator Hegar to file legislation to reverse Governor Perry's Executive Order mandating HPV vaccine

Says Texas children's health and safety, as well as parental rights at risk

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) -- Today Texas State Senator Glenn Hegar (R, Katy) announced that he intends to file legislation to reverse Governor Perry's Executive Order that mandates every girl ages 11 and 12 be given multiple doses of the Gardisil HPV vaccine. Through his Executive Order, the Governor makes Texas the very first state in the nation to mandate the vaccine even though Merck, the manufacturer is still conducting research trials to determine its true benefits.

"Cancer is a devastating disease that has a tremendous impact on our State and our Nation. My own life has been tragically impacted by the loss of family and friends from this terrible disease and that is why I fully support the efforts of our great medical research teams to find meaningful solutions to eradicating all forms of cancer," Senator Hegar said. "Unfortunately, Governor Perry's executive order mandating that 11 and 12 year old children receive the Gardisil vaccine or not be able to attend school is not in the best interest of our state, nor in the interests of Texas parents and their children," Hegar added.

Hegar said that he would file legislation to reverse the Governor's executive order that attempts to bypass the legislature because such mandates take away parent's rights to make medical decisions for their children and usurp parental authority.

Senator Hegar said that Perry's executive order sets a dangerous precedent and forces parents who object to their young daughters receiving the vaccine to utilize a so-called "opt out" clause. "This vaccine should be made available for those parents who want it for their daughter, but it should not be forced upon those who don't," said Hegar. "Parents should be allowed to opt-in on behalf of their children. No parent should be forced to opt-out," he added.

Hegar said that in addition to his concerns about the mandate's challenge to parental authority, he also has grave concerns over the lasting effects of the vaccine. Hegar said that the Gardisil vaccine was only approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in June of 2006 and that the clinical trials for the vaccine were still ongoing. Hegar noted that Merck is still uncertain as to whether the vaccine will have a lasting effect or if the vaccine will lose its effect over time which he noted may cause an uniformed public to engage in risky behavior because they think they are no longer in danger of contracting the HPV virus.

Hegar said that an even greater risk is that the Gardisil vaccine protects against only four strains of the HPV virus that can cause cervical cancer, while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 100 strains of HPV can cause genital warts and that 30 sexually transmitted high risk strains can cause cancer of the cervix. While the four strains of the HPV virus that the Gardisil vaccine protects against are responsible for up to 70 percent of cervical cancers, anyone receiving the Gardisil vaccine will still need to have regular PAP tests to detect cervical cancer. "Governor Perry's mandated vaccine may only lessen the risk and does not prevent women from getting cervical cancer," Hegar added.

"Forcing all Texas 11 and 12 year old girls to receive the Gardisil vaccine is completely out of line with the longstanding history of why children in the United States are required to receive nine vaccines for thirteen different diseases,' Senator Hegar said. "Unlike, all of the other mandated vaccines in Texas, Gardisil will not eliminate a preventable disease in our State. Instead, parents will be given a false hope that their daughters will never contract cervical cancer, which is a grave injustice to these young girls and their families," Senator Hegar added.

Hegar said that thanks to regular PAP testing and current health practices in the State of Texas, the number of deaths from cervical cancer has steadily declined. "I do not understand why Governor Perry wishes to bypass debate in the Texas Legislature in order to mandate a vaccine for my young daughter which gives young women and children a false sense of security against a deadly disease. Instead, we should have a healthy debate in the Texas Legislature about this important issue and work together to better educate Texans about the options available to reduce the risk of cervical cancer," said Hegar.

Senator Hegar added that the high cost of the Gardisil would make it unaffordable for many Texas families and that even those women and girls who receive it must still have regular PAP screening in order to determine if they are at risk for cervical cancer.

Senator Hegar said that more education and clinical study of the Gardisil vaccine is necessary before its use is mandated in Texas. He said that the Washington Post recently reported that while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vaccine for all girls' ages 11 and 12, Dr. Joseph A Bocchini, the chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases was quoted as saying that he believes it is premature to recommend making the Gardisil vaccine mandatory. Dr. Bocchini stated, "I think it's too early . . . . It would be wise to wait until we have additional information about the safety of the vaccine."

Hegar said that in a similar story, the Baltimore Sun reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging a go-slow approach, with an initial focus on raising public awareness of HPV and more monitoring of the safety of the vaccine, which hasn't been observed in larger-scale rollouts. In the same article, Dr Martin Meyers, Director for the National Network for Immunization Information was quoted as saying, "A lot of us are worried it's a little early to be pushing a mandated HPV vaccine."

Senator Hegar said that throughout the United States, all children are required to receive nine vaccines for thirteen different diseases. Each of these thirteen diseases have, at one time or another, posed a very serious threat to the health of children in this country and in Texas. Of these thirteen diseases, tetanus is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is not spread from person to person. The nine vaccines required by law include, Hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine, Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) conjugate vaccine, Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), Varicella vaccine, Meningococcal vaccine, Pneumococcal vaccine, Influenza vaccine, and Hepatitis A vaccine (HepA). In Texas, exemptions are available to these required vaccines under two conditions, 1) a physician writes a statement stating that the vaccine(s) required would be medically harmful or injurious to the health and well-being of the child, or 2) the child's parents/guardians choose an exemption from immunization requirements for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief. Texas law, however, does not allow parents/guardians to elect an exemption simply because of inconvenience, such as a lost record or that it is too much trouble to go to a physician to receive the vaccine. Schools should maintain an up-to-date list of students with exemptions, so they can be excluded from attending school if an outbreak occurs.

"It is my firm belief that Governor Perry was well intentioned when he issued his executive order, but I do not believe that he has fully considered the false sense of safety that his mandate will create for the young girls who will be required to take this vaccine and their families. I also do not believe that he has fully considered the threat to parental authority created by this mandate," Hegar noted. "It is my hope that the Governor will reconsider his executive order and, instead, work with the Texas Legislature to develop a sound health policy that provides the tools and information parents and their daughters need to lessen the risk of cervical cancer in our state," Hegar concluded.