Merck ends push for HPV vaccine mandate
■ Politicians in many states, though, are forging ahead.
By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted March 12, 2007
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Physician objections helped persuade Merck & Co. Inc. to end its lobbying campaign for states to mandate its new human papillomavirus vaccine, marketed as Gardasil.
Merck did not respond to AMNews interview requests by press time, but a company executive told The New York Times that the mandate push was counterproductive.
"Our goal is to reach as many females as possible," Richard M. Haupt, MD, MPH, executive director of medical affairs at the firm's vaccine division told the Times. "Right now, school requirements and Merck's involvement in that are being viewed as a distraction to that goal."
Joseph A. Bocchini, MD, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Infectious Diseases, said Merck did the right thing.
"The school mandate issue was changing the focus from the benefits of the vaccine to controversies over whether mandates should be used," Dr. Bocchini said.
Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine: The Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver, said Merck had little choice but to pull back. "Vaccination is a pretty fragile three-way agreement between the vaccine makers, public health officials and the public," he said. "If the public is going south on it and public health is not into it, you're out there on your own, and that's what was happening to Merck."
At press time, Texas state legislators were moving to rescind Republican Gov. Rick Perry's February executive order mandating the cervical cancer vaccine for 11- and 12-year-olds.
The Virginia General Assembly passed a requirement, but Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine had not yet taken action. Twenty other states were considering mandates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.