Group Battles Texas HPV Vaccine Mandate

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," February 12, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

GREG KELLY, GUEST HOST: The "Big Debate" now: lots of angry residents in Texas voicing their opposition about their Republican governor of Texas. As we have reported here on "The Big Story," Rick Perry is under fire for signing a sweeping order that forces cervical cancer vaccinations on every sixth-grade girl in his state. Many of his fellow Republicans have turned on him and now a new national coalition has stepped in.

"Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy spoke with the group's leader today. Hello Douglas.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, "BIG STORY" CORRESPONDENT: Hey Greg. Yeah, they want the governor to rescind this order which they call a blatant cave to a drug company. It's a fight they say will soon spread across the country from Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY (VOICE OVER): A group of Texas mothers has a message for Texas governor Rick Perry. Keep your hands off our kids.

KATHRYN SERKES, ASSN. OF AMERICAN PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS: We don't want the state of Texas or any other state interfering with parental rights.

KENNEDY: Recently, Republican Perry skirted overwhelming Republican opposition in the Texas state legislature by signing an executive order. In essence, it will force all sixth-grade girls to get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, a disease spread through sexual contact.

SERKES: Children do not get this sitting next to somebody in a classroom. So there is no possibility of contagion, there's no possibility of spreading this disease unless you're engaged in sexual activity. So for that reason, there is no public health emergency.

KENNEDY: The vaccine called Gardasil is produced by Merck & Company, which hired Perry's former chief of staff to lobby them, and funds a group headed by his current chief of staff's mother-in-law. Still, some Texas mothers say they're not buying what the governor and big pharma is selling.

JENNY WILLIAMS, MOTHER: Get a look at this face. She is not Perry's guinea pig. She's not a guinea pig for Merck. She's not a guinea pig for Perry. And over my dead body will I allow it.

KENNEDY: Merck is now promoting vaccine legislation in 20 other states and the District of Columbia in a lobbying push that could make the company billions of dollars. Still, some Texas doctors are calling the $360 shots a cynical experiment conducted, they say, at the expense of children.

DR. JANE ORIENT, AAPS DIRECTOR: Governor Perry's order is an outrageous violation of civil rights of girls and their parents, and it poses a medical treatment of unproved benefit and unknown safety on patients without their informed consent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY: They say the vaccine was only tested for six months on a very limited group. They say many more tests are needed to ensure it's safe, particularly, they say, Greg, if it's going to be mandated for kids.

KELLY: Douglas, you have that map up there and a lot of states are being lobbied by Merck. But I would imagine the state leadership throughout the country, they're getting the message don't do this because Rick Perry's paying a pretty big price for this.

KENNEDY: Yeah, but you know what Rick Perry got — Merck has so much money. They're pumping money into this one particular group in government. And you know it's hard to argue against money when it comes to politics.

KELLY: But the flip side, the nastiness that's been directed at him, I mean is it really worth that money?

KENNEDY: Well, who knows what he got. He got a $6,000 donation. His former chief of staff is on the payroll of Merck. And you know, who knows what Merck gives people.

KELLY: OK, Douglas Kennedy, thank you very much. It's good to see you.

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