Yesterday Merck & Co, the makers of the Gardasil vaccine, announced they were suspending their campaign to get state legislatures to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for girls entering the sixth grade. Though the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer has been seen by many as a significant medical advance, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding mandatory vaccination.
Even public health experts who support wide-spread vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) questioned the timing of Merck's lobbying efforts and expressed concern that the campaign was undermining the public's confidence in the vaccine. Additional concerns from parents' rights groups and conservative groups added to the pressure against mandatory vaccine legislation.
According to Dr. Richard M. Haupt, Merck's medical director for vaccines:
Our goal is about cervical cancer prevention, and we want to reach as many females as possible with Gardasil… We're concerned that our role in supporting school requirements is a distraction from that goal, and as such have suspended our lobbying efforts.
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He added that they will continue to provide HPV vaccine information for government officials upon request.
Many states are considering mandatory HPV vaccine legislation—Maine and Minnesota are the latest ones to introduce this type of bill, Maryland has withdrawn similar legislation, and Texas is the only one to enact a mandatory HPV vaccine bill so far. Joseph Bocchini, chair of the committee on infectious diseases at the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that such proposals have "created a significant controversy over things that have nothing to do with the vaccine" and that "if the public had enough experience with the vaccine and had enough knowledge about HPV, the question about whether to get the vaccine or give it to their daughters wouldn't be an issue."