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Texas legislators move to rescind governor's HPV vaccine order

[JURIST] Lawmakers in Texas [JURIST news archive] advanced a bill Wednesday to rescind the governor's executive order requiring that school-age girls receive a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. The House of Representatives' Public Health Committee [official websites] voted 6-3 in favor of the bill [legislative materials], which is sponsored by more than 90 of the 150 House members. The bill provides, in part, that "[i]mmunization against the human papilloma virus may not be required for a person's admission to any elementary or secondary school," and it explicitly pre-empts "all contrary executive orders of the governor." The committee voted after hearing hours of public testimony [Dallas Morning News report] late into the night Monday. The House committee also unanimously approved another bill [legislative materials] designed to increase public awareness of HPV and the vaccine. The Houston Chronicle has more.

The executive order [text], signed earlier this month [JURIST report] by Gov. Rick Perry (R) [official profile], is controversial because of the sexually transmitted nature of HPV [US CDC fact sheet], which is the primary cause of cervical cancer. Concerns also have been raised about the vaccine's cost, which approaches $400, and its side effects. Perry's order requires girls entering the sixth grade to receive the vaccine unless their parents opt out. A number of legislators have challenged the legality of the executive order [JURIST report]. Meanwhile, lawmakers in about 20 other states are considering bills dealing with the HPV vaccine [PJEPHL report]. Most recently, a bill to require the vaccine was defeated by the Kansas Legislature [KTKA-TV report]. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co. [corporate website] announced Tuesday that it would no longer lobby state legislatures to mandate that girls receive its Gardasil vaccine [product website], the only HPV vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. A senior Merck official was quoted in Wednesday's New York Times [NYT report] as saying that public health authorities and medical organizations view the lobbying effort as a "distraction" to the goal of vaccinating as many girls as possible.

On Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [official website] is expected to release findings about the side effects of the HPV vaccine. According to an advance copy of the CDC report, the hundreds of thousands of doses administered have resulted in about 500 adverse reactions [AP report], most of them minor. The National Vaccine Information Center [advocacy website], a nonprofit organization "dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries," released a report [text] on Wednesday calling on the FDA and CDC to issue a public warning [press release] that Gardasil should not be combined with other vaccines and that girls should be monitored for side effects such as fainting for 24 hours after vaccination.

This report was prepared in partnership with the Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law.

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