Texas lawmakers vote to override governor’s vaccine order

Texas lawmakers voted to approve a bill blocking Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s order requiring sixth grade girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). Last week, the Texas House voted 119-21 to approve a bill to keep the HPV vaccine off the required list of shots for school attendance. The measure still needs final approval from the state House and the Senate. It is possible that Perry could veto the legislation; however, the bill does have enough backing, with 119 votes, to override such a veto. 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, which 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. The company plans to file for FDA approval of Cervarix in April. In late February, Merck said it would stop lobbying states to pass laws requiring that preteen girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer, following a growing backlash among parents, healthcare providers and consumer groups. Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, will sign legislation approved by the state House on Sunday requiring vaccinations against HPV for sixth grade girls. The legislation is set to take effect June 15. Virginia lawmakers have passed a similar law, which Democratic Gov. Timothy Kaine has said he would sign. In Massachusetts, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget proposal calls for providing the vaccine free to all girls ages 9 through 18 who want it.