Texas Governor Views HPV Vaccine as 'Pro-Life' Issue

July 7, 2008 - 7:06 PM

Washington (CNSNews.com) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry has no regrets about his proposal requiring sixth grade girls to get a vaccine protecting them from a sexually transmitted disease, even though reports surfaced that some vaccine recipients suffered miscarriages while others had numbness or paralysis after the vaccine was administered.

A year ago, Perry, a Republican, signed an executive order making Texas the first state in the country to require girls entering the sixth grade to get a Gardasil vaccination to guard against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer. It didn't take long for the Texas Legislature to enact a veto-proof law overriding the order and prohibiting schools from requiring the vaccine.

Recent reports to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many of them still unconfirmed, show that more than 3,000 adverse reactions to the vaccine have been reported. The reports are made through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is essentially raw data that the CDC and FDA must verify. (See earlier story)

"Any drug is going to have questions about it," Perry told Cybercast News Service Saturday. "We had questions about measles. We had questions about polio. We had questions about practically every vaccine that has ever been developed."

The vaccine, manufactured by Merck & Co., remains controversial. The most consistent adverse reaction reported after Gardasil shots were administered includes at least 13 cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the immune system attacks nerves and can trigger numbness and paralysis.

Potential litigation is in the works, according to Chicago attorney John Driscoll.

The CDC responded to the reports this summer, saying that 13 cases of GBS are in proportion with the general population, with or without the Gardasil vaccination. Further, only two reported cases met the definition of GBS when further investigated, the CDC said.

Eight deaths were reported to the CDC and FDA, but only four of those deaths were confirmed as of the end of last year and they each occurred for reasons other than the Gardasil vaccine, a CDC spokesman said.

Since June 2006, when the FDA approved Gardasil, there have been 28 reported cases in which pregnant women miscarried after receiving the vaccine. But not all of those reports have been confirmed, according to the federal agencies. (See story)

Last year, three states -- Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia -- passed laws mandating that girls entering the sixth grade get the HPV vaccine, and that is what Perry attempted to do in Texas.

"The issue is saving young ladies' lives," Perry said in the interview. "Is this case important enough to have this vaccine available? I think it is. I'm a very pro-life governor. This is a pro-life issue for me."

After the FDA approved Gardasil, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended routine vaccinations for girls ages 11 and 12.

HPV infects 20 million people in the United States, and there are about 6.2 million new cases each year, according to the CDC. HPV is responsible for nearly 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.

But the American College of Pediatrics and the New England Journal of Medicine oppose making the vaccine mandatory.

A Merck spokeswoman told Cybercast News Service last year that all potential complications from Gardasil are listed on the package, and she stressed that reports coming into the government are raw data.

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