U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

A Georgia congressman has launched a financial incentive plan that would discourage states from requiring parents to have their underage daughters vaccinated for a sexually transmitted disease, a concept that currently is under review in nearly two-thirds of the United States.

As WND has reported, a campaign is sweeping across the nation to implement state requirements that young girls be vaccinated with Merck & Co.’s Gardasil vaccine against human papillomavirus.

An updated report from the National Conference of State Legislatures says now the requirements have been implemented in Texas by executive order of Gov. Rick Perry, but the District of Columbia and more than 30 other states are considering plans.

There has been so much activity that the NCSL has set up a special website just to track and update the various campaigns.

The mandates appear to be a coordinated effort because a number of the sponsors of the plans are members of 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.

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.

Estimates are that Merck will be in line to reap billions of dollars in revenue if any significant number of states make its Gardasil mandatory, since the costs are expected to be in the $400 per person range.

But now U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., a medical doctor, announced he has introduced the Parental Right to Decide Protection Act, a plan that “prohibits federal funds from being used to implement mandatory state human-papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programs.”

“As an OB-GYN physician, I understand the importance of protecting Americans from sexually transmitted diseases, and I applaud the development of an HPV vaccine,” Gingrey said. “But for states to mandate vaccination for young women is both unprecedented and unacceptable.

“States should require vaccinations for communicable diseases, like measles and the mumps. But you can’t catch HPV if an infected schoolmate coughs on you or shares your juice box at lunch. Whether or not girls get vaccinated against HPV is a decision for parents and physicians, not state governments,” he said.

He noted that HPV is a “sexually-transmitted disease and not a communicable health concern”‘ so required vaccinations would overstep the government’s role “and overrides the decisions of patients, parents and physicians.”

The mandates being considered across the nation generally are aimed at sixth-grade girls, and would require them to be vaccinated before being allowed to continue school.

The Parental Right to Decide Protection Act would prohibit all federal funds from supporting mandatory HPV vaccination programs. It does not prohibit federal funds from supporting vaccination programs that are optional, and states with optional programs could use Medicaid and education dollars to provide vaccinations, he said.

The powerful connections behind the state proposals to mandate the HPV vaccine became apparent when Fran Eaton, the editor for the Illinois Review blog posted a commentary on the situation in Illinois.

There she noted with dismay that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had signed into law by executive fiat a requirement that all schoolgirls be vaccinated, and is facing considerable negative reaction because of that decision. She said she had gotten a call from former Republican National Committee Chairman Jack Oliver asking what it would take to get her to be neutral on the issue of mandatory vaccines for STDs.

“I suspect Gov. Perry of Texas may have received such a call before issuing an executive order mandating for all 11-year-olds. A call like that, in addition to pressure from his Chief of Staff, whose family member lobbies for the HPV vaccine producer, was probably just enough to push him into the hot water he’s boiling in right now,” Eaton wrote.

David Welch, of the U.S. Pastor Council, located in Texas, said an alert letter was sent via e-mail, fax and other routes to 7,000 Christian churches in Texas alerting them of the new requirement.

He told WND he wondered why by executive order schoolgirls were being ordered to be treated with “a broad and possibly risky vaccination … when this is a behavior-based problem?”

Eaton wrote that she refused Oliver’s request. He is listed on the staff directory for the Washington-based Brian Cave Strategies, and one of the clients listed on that company’s website is “Financial Services Forum.” That same organization is listed by Forbes on its website regarding the background of a Merck director, William B. Harrison Jr.

Merck was asked to comment on the connections, but did not return a call to WND.

But it did issue an unattributed statement that many health care providers, consumers and others have an “urgency” about HPV-related diseases.

“Merck’s goal is to support efforts to implement policies that ensure that Gardasil is used to achieve what it was designed to do: help reduce the burden of cervical cancer – the second leading cancer among women around the world – and other HPV-related diseases for as many people as possible, and as quickly as possible.”

Texas’ program is beginning, based on Perry’s order, although lawmakers there have launched a legislative effort to reverse Perry’s decision. Other states where plans have been or are being considered are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

As WND reported when Perry made his announcement, Debi Vinnedge, executive director for Children of God for Life, said the vaccine could be considered in the same class as condoms. Studies in their time indicated those, she said, would address the problem of STDs, just as current studies support Gardasil.

“The purpose of vaccinations in children at schools was to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. There’s nothing wrong with doing that kind of thing,” Vinnedge told WND. “But this is not a disease that is spread any other way other than direct sexual intercourse.”

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