In the end, only Virginia and the District of Columbia made the vaccine mandatory, according to Alexandra Stewart, an assistant professor of health policy at George Washington University. “Social conservatives really objected to it, and it has gotten caught up in all these other issues,” said Stewart, who supports use of the vaccine.
In Texas, one of Merck’s lobbyists in 2007 was Toomey, who is also co-founder of the Make Us Great Again super PAC, formed this month to collect and spend unlimited money in support of Perry’s campaign. Merck and Toomey did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Fast Fix: 5 facts about Rick Perry
Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) wasted no time going after President Obama, saying, "We don't need a president who apologizes for America." (Aug. 15)
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Merck gave Perry a $6,000 contribution when the issue was being discussed in the governor’s mansion, and it supported a women’s legislators group that pushed for the vaccine as well, according to Texas news reports.
Texas state contribution records show that Merck’s political-action committee has given Perry $29,500 since 2000. Most of that came prior to his 2007 executive order.
Democrats and some Republicans have frequently criticized Perry’s role in the controversy. Former U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) singled out the issue as an example of “cronyism in Austin” during her unsuccessful primary challenge in the 2010 governor’s race.
“Why did the governor mandate vaccines for our young daughters?” Hutchison said in one speech. “It was because there were lobbyists that were first, not the people of Texas.”
Until this past week, Perry has staunchly defended the vaccine decision, casting it as a “pro-life” attempt to protect women’s health and disparaging objections from social conservatives. At a defiant news conference in May 2007, Perry chastised legislators for overturning the order; he was flanked by several women who had contracted the virus, including one who had been raped.
“I challenge legislators to look these women in the eyes and tell them, ‘We could have prevented this disease for your daughters and granddaughters, but we just didn’t have the gumption to address all the misguided and misleading political rhetoric,’ ” Perry said at the time.