New Mexico governor changes mind, decides to veto mandatory HPV vaccine bill

New Mexico’s Democratic governor said last week he has decided to veto a bill that would have required girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), the Associated Press reported. Gov. Bill Richardson previously indicated he would sign the bill after it passed the legislature last month but has now changed his mind after parents and doctors voiced their concerns about the program, the report said. “While everyone recognized the benefits of this vaccine, there is insufficient time to educate parents, schools and healthcare providers,” he said. The measure would have gone into effect June 15, requiring girls entering sixth grade this fall to be vaccinated against HPV, the sexually transmitted virus known to cause cervical cancer. Richardson’s veto will not affect state health department program that will offer the vaccine to girls entering fifth grade in the fall in school districts that participate. Currently, Merck’s Gardasil is currently the only approved vaccine available to protect girls and women against strains of HPV responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. GlaxoSmithKline is also working on a developmental HPV vaccine, known as Cervarix. Glaxo filed for FDA approval of Cervarix last month. Bills have been introduced in approximately 20 states to require vaccination to protect against HPV, but some legislative bodies backed off due to safety concerns and protests that administration of an HPV vaccine could promote promiscuity and/or erode parental rights. Last month, Texas lawmakers voted to approve a bill to blocking Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s order requiring sixth grade girls to be vaccinated against HPV. In February, Perry signed an order making Texas the first state to require schoolgirls be vaccinated against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. The action came on the heels of intense lobbying efforts in Texas by Merck, the maker of Gardasil. Merck has since stopped lobbying states to pass laws requiring that preteen girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer, following a backlash from parents, healthcare providers and consumer groups.