NPR logo Perry Position On HPV Vaccine For Girls Followed Expert Medical Advice

Perry Position On HPV Vaccine For Girls Followed Expert Medical Advice

The Republican candidates running for president didn't mention abortion during their debate at the Ronald Reagan library.

But they did argue heatedly about another issue tangentially related to sex and reproductive health: whether pre-teen girls should be vaccinated against the HPV, or human papillomavirus, the leading cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry unsuccessfully tried to require the vaccine be given to sixth grade girls in 2007, shortly after it was approved by the FDA.

His executive order was ultimately overridden by Texas lawmakers.

Perry was roundly thrashed on stage by his rivals for the GOP nomination.

Requiring the vaccine "is not good medicine...and not good social policy," said Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who is also a medical doctor.

Said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, "It is wrong for government, whether it's state or federal government, to impose on parents what they must do to inoculate their children."

In Perry's defense, however, the vaccine is recommended for girls at age 11 or 12 not just by the federal government's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but also the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

While some parents have been concerned that such early immunization for a sexually transmitted disease could encourage early sexual encounters, the public-health rationale is to ensure that girls are fully protected well before they begin to be sexually active.