On Feb 2nd, Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order mandating the vaccination of young girls with the Gardasil HPV vaccine sold by Merck. What a storm that unleashed. The Texas legislature screamed foul. The Republican Party screamed foul. And many alternative health experts screamed foul.
But not all for the same reason.
- The legislature didn’t really object in principle to the mandate. They just didn’t like the fact that the governor did it. They felt it usurped their authority. They wanted the credit for doing it, and didn’t want the governor hogging it all to himself.
- Republican conservatives objected because they felt it condoned premarital sex.
- Alternative health voices felt that it was government usurpation of personal choice and that it was driven by money — as evidenced by the fact that a key lobbyist for Merck (the company that makes the vaccine) was Governor Perry’s former Chief of Staff..
So what’s the reality?
Governor Perry’s decision does not exist in a vacuum. This goes back to NYC’s proposal to ban trans fats, an idea that received national acclaim and that was supported by most health experts and most alternative health voices. The acclaim was so loud that the proposal has since been emulated by city after city. Let’s get real. This was highly predictable. In fact, it was a no brainer. Politicians live for this kind of acclaim. Because NYC received so much good press and so little flack, Governor Perry thought he had an easy winner here too, and thought he could get credit for being first — thus the reason for bypassing the legislature.
Unfortunately for Governor Perry, although he could easily have ignored the voices of alternative health (governments do it all the time), he could not ignore the voices of angry legislators and members of his own party who felt slighted. In his latest pronouncements, he has backed off from his original mandate and told the legislature the final authority rests with them.
But make no mistake here. His backing down was purely the result of a political power play. It had nothing to do with appeals made to letting people be in charge of their own health. Unfortunately, all of the eggs of praise that were created by the adulation given to NYC for their trans fat proposal have begun to hatch. Governor Perry’s proposal is not the last we will see in which government tries to mandate what’s best for our health. The chickens are just starting to come home to roost.