A new report has revealed that Merck & Co., which was lobbying aggressively for all states to impose laws requiring that young girls be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease with its vaccine, was told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to back off.
According to a Washington Times report, Dr. Jon Abramson, of the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices, said the message was given to Merck officials.
“I told Merck my personal opinion that it shouldn’t be mandated,” Abramson told the newspaper. “And they heard it from other committee members.” The company’s intensive lobbying campaign to require the vaccine in order to be allowed to attend school should be dropped, the company was told.
That’s because, as many family organizations opposed to Merck’s plans have pointed out, the vaccine Gardasil prevents the human papillomavirus, but that is transmitted only by sexual contact and isn’t contagious like measles.
As WND recently reported, Merck said it was halting its efforts to pressure states into making that vaccine mandatory because of the backlash among physicians, consumer advocates, parents and even legislators.
“Proving once again that motivated people can make a difference in public policy, the clash over mandatory HPV vaccinations is still at a fever pitch in over 20 states,” according to a statement from Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council.
He noted the new opposition from Abramson. “As head of America’s federal agency charged to recommend vaccines, this should send a significant message to states that are debating whether or not to follow Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-Texas) lead,” he said. The agency’s position now is the same as the FRC’s, he noted, that because the disease is transmitted only through sexual contact “a child in school is not at an increased risk for HPV like he is the measles.”
Dave Welch, of the U.S. Pastor Council, an interdenominational, interracial coalition based in the Houston area, has been lobbying against Perry’s decision since the Texas governor signed an executive order imposing that vaccine mandate in Texas.
He noted that state lawmakers there already are advancing a legislative plan that would overturn the governor’s plan. Others aren’t being so patient. Perkins noted that there are reports that parents of young girls in Texas already have filed lawsuits against Perry for “overstepping his authority and illegally requiring the vaccine for preteens.”
“The negative fallout is still simmering in states like Maryland and California where bills to make the drug mandatory have either been withdrawn or have yet to be assigned to committee,” Perkins said.
Welch said a “Pastors’ Day At The Capitol” in Austin at the end of March will be used to help address this and other concerns.
The campaign apparently had been coordinated by Merck through Women in Government, an organization set up for female state lawmakers that runs an attached website promoting the vaccine and mandates that would require its use. Many of the legislative proposals have WIG members as sponsors and co-sponsors.
Merck & Co. is a financial contributor to Women in Government, although both Merck and Women in Government, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, have declined to release how much that support is.
The National Conference of State Legislatures set up a special website just to track and update the various campaigns.
That site confirms that about three dozen states have had such plans introduced. But it shows slow progress in many locations, and in addition to the Maryland plan being withdrawn, it shows in Mississippi the bill already has been killed. In Virginia the Legislature has approved the plan but it still is pending before the governor.
Abramson also told the Times that the expense was a concern, because at costs estimated at $360-$400 per student, it’s the most expensive vaccine on the market. The money has to be lined up first, he suggested.
“I don’t see that yet,” he said.
Merck issued a written comment. “We do not want any misperception about Merck’s role to distract from the ultimate goal of fighting cervical cancer, so Merck has re-evaluated its approach at the state level and we will not lobby for school requirements for Gardasil.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., also has proposed a plan to discourage states from requiring parents to have their underage daughters – those heading into sixth grade – vaccinated for the STD. His effort would ban the use of federal money for mandatory programs, but allow it for voluntary programs.
Perkins also noted that while headlines are “rampant with the suggestion one in four women (between the ages of 14 and 59) is infected with HPV,” a new study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms only 3.4 percent of women studied had an infection that Gardasil protects against.
“Legislators should ponder the greater cultural crisis of experimentation and promiscuity that created the epidemic in the first place. Along with the option of vaccination, states should educate children on an even better way to fight HPV – abstinence and monogamy,” Perkins said.
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