Can you believe that Gov. Rick Perry is still sticking to his guns on his surprise executive order requiring all 11-12 year old girls to be vaccinated against the HPV virus? Rick Perry is now claiming that it is a personal issue, with his father, his mother, and his sister all currently in remission from cancer. Some still think he was bought off by Merck, but some say that Rick Perry is looking for his own personal legacy – maybe he wants to be known as the governor who went to war against cancer.
Was this really the best way to kick off a war against cancer? Or would a little prior communication have helped Perry’s efforts a bit?
Apparently, some key Republican legislators found out about Perry’s mandate from none other than reporters from ABC and CNN seeking comments. (Maybe Perry took his example from Tim Dick, who sued Frank Vance, but Frank didn’t know about it until the local reporter contacted him for comments.)
Making an executive decision like this was not necessary; there was no real emergency. In fact, there is no perceived emergency. This is about Rick Perry getting what Rick Perry wants, without having to go through the traditional lengthy process of communication. There are probably many legislators who would have either backed Perry or at least offered suitable alternatives (as they are being forced to do now), if Perry had just followed protocol. Here a few questions that should have been discussed long before any decisions were made:
Is this the most effective use of Texas health care dollars? How much will it really cost? What does science say about it? What about potential side-effects? Should vaccination be mandatory for students or just encouraged? Does the order trample on parental rights? At what age should the vaccine be administered? What should be done to defray the high cost? Have enough clinical trials and research been done to justify mandating the vaccine at this time? Should this order go into effect now? Is the fact that only one company (Merck) currently makes a Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine of concern? A competing pharmaceutical company is developing its own vaccine. Should the state wait to see if it gets FDA approval?
It is not known if this vaccine is safe for use in pregnancy. Some 11-12 year old girls are pregnant already. How are they going to determine whether or not each girl is pregnant before they give each of the three shots, or is the State willing to take a risk and just take each girl at her word?
“If Governor Perry believes we should vaccinate these young girls against a disease that occurs as a result of sexual activity then he should also assume that there exists the possibility that some of those same girls might also be pregnant when they receive this mandated vaccine,” Sen. Hegar said.
Although the three-shot series costs $360, most private physicians are charging between $500 and $900. Who is going to pay for this? Some insurance companies will cover it, but not all, or you may have to pay a high deductible. Who pays for it in the first place – the physicians? With a 30-45 day turn around time for insurance payments, how much can a physician afford to keep in stock?
Or maybe you don’t have insurance. While the federal government will chip in $43 million for the uninsured, Rick Perry is seeking another $29 million in state aid to pay for this as well. Such a deal. First, he mandates the vaccine and then he pays for it. We should be so grateful.
Meanwhile, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins must be reaffirmed in the Senate Nominations Committee, but some of the senators are going to demand that Hawkins be able to answer all these lingering questions, and probably more, before they confirm him. Not very good timing on Rick Perry’s part.
As a first step to combat Perry's order, the House Public Health Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill Monday (February 19) to pre-empt Perry’s order. The hearing is open to the public.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director F. Scott McCown has also filed a brief to the Attorney General arguing that the governor has no right to issue executive orders like this.
And then there is Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) who is pushing another bill to require that all 11-12 year old girls receive the vaccine by this August, rather than next year as Perry mandates.
Politics in Texas hasn't been this exciting since all the democrats played hookey a couple years back!