Saturday, February 24

Questions over Merck's donation to Governor

Andrew Pollack and Stephanie Saul at the New York Times reported earlier this week that Merck would halt lobbying states to require the use of its new cervical cancer vaccine, which is aimed at the sexually transmitted virus, HPV.

On February 2nd, Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered the vaccine for all girls entering sixth grade beginning in fall 2008. The Executive Order would have made it easier for insurance coverage of the vaccine, but social conservatives immediately worried that a vaccine against an STD would send the wrong message to children. Other critics were wary of Merck’s perceived strong influence in pushing for the mandatory immunization.

The Associated Press introduced a fresh layer of controversy by reporting the governor's chief of staff met with key aides about the vaccine the same day its manufacturer donated money to his campaign.

Chief of Staff Deirdre Delisi’s calendar shows she met with the governor’s budget director and three members of his office for an “HPV Vaccine for ChildrenBriefing” on Oct. 16.

That day, New Jersey-based Merck & Co.’s political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry and $5,000 total to eight state lawmakers.
The timing would indicate that these meetings took place before conservatives helped Perry win his election... and even before the FDA cleared the drug for legal use.

According to Perry's spokesman Robert Black - the timing of the meeting and the donation was just a coincidence.

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