Gov. Rick Perry may be taking heat for his failed plan to require young girls in Texas to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus, but the Mexican government has decided it's a good idea, and many other U.S. states have considered similar plans.
Mexico’s health ministry recently announced it will vaccinate all girls at age 9, beginning in 2012. The ministry said that more than 1.25 million girls had already been vaccinated from 2008 to 2010, and there are plans to vaccinate an additional 433,000 children. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer among women in the country, and cervical cancer is the leading cause of death of women in some southern states in Mexico.
One of the most heated exchanges during Monday night’s GOP debate happened when Perry came under fire for his 2007 executive order requiring girls entering middle school to get vaccinated against HPV.
That executive order sparked the ire of Texas lawmakers who said it should have been vetted through the legislative process. They overturned the order just three months after Perry issued it.
As he has entered the presidential race and shot to front-runner status, Perry has said the mandate was a mistake and that he should have worked with the Legislature on the matter. Still, Perry has said that his goal with the order was to “err always on the side of life.”
Mexican health officials said the reason they are requiring the vaccine at such an early age is because it is most effective when it's administered prior to the age of sexual maturity. The vaccination plan will be implemented through a partnership between the Mexican government and MSD de México, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Merck, which produces one of the two HPV vaccines.
Mexico isn't the only government to forge ahead with the HPV mandate, though. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, measures to mandate vaccinations were filed in 23 states during 2006 and 2007. Two of the measures were adopted; one in Virginia and one for the District of Columbia. Since then, HPV mandate measures have been filed in five states, but none have been adopted. Twenty-one states, including Texas, have laws that provide funds for or educational programs about HPV.
Despite overturning the Perry order, the Texas Legislature did require that schools distribute “medically accurate, scientific, unbiased, and peer reviewed information about the vaccine to parents or legal guardians at the appropriate time in the immunization schedule.”
HPV infects about 20 million people in the United States, and there are about 6 million new cases each year, according to the Centers of Disease and Control. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services does not track records of HPV cases in Texas but expects that 1,250 women in the state will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011 and that 388 will die from the disease.