Drug-making giant Merck & Co. has announced that it will halt its efforts to pressure states into making the vaccination of all young girls against a sexually transmitted disease mandatory.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the drug manufacturer said the lobbying had become a distraction because of the backlash among physicians, consumer advocates, parents and even legislators.

The report said the “aggressive lobbying campaign” was designed to boost the sales of Merck’s Gardasil, the only vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the few strains of the human papillomavirus that it affects.

Its costs are estimated to be in the $360-$400 per person range, which could have meant billions in revenue for the company, depending on the number of state legislatures convinced that requiring the vaccine is appropriate.

Strains of HPV have been connected to cervical cancer cases. However, HPV cannot be transmitted easily; it is gotten only through sexual contact.

The lobbying was distracting from the company’s goal of immunizing women, Richard Haupt, Merck’s executive director of medical affairs, told the WSJ. Instead the company has “decided at this point not to lobby for school laws any further.”

Only days earlier, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., launched a proposal in Congress that would have discouraged states from requiring parents to have their underage daughters – those heading into sixth grade – vaccinated for the STD.

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

As WND has reported, the campaign was sweeping across the nation to implement state requirements that young girls be vaccinated with Gardasil.

An updated report from the National Conference of State Legislatures said 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.

But Gingrey, 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.”

When Perry mandated the vaccinations by executive order, David Welch, of the U.S. Pastor Council, said 7,000 Christian churches were warned of the threat to parental influence on their daughters.

Lawmakers also immediately introduced a plan to overturn Perry’s decision.

Welch 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?”

Merck had been asked several times for a 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.”

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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