Gov. Rick Perry's 2007 attempt to require that girls in Texas be vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, has become a political hot potato. But Dr. Ronald DePinho, the new president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says the vaccine is not just sound but "one of the great scientific advances in the history of medicine."
In last night's GOP presidential debate, Perry faced repeated criticism from other candidates for his HPV push. Michele Bachmann said it was “flat out wrong” to require that “innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order.”
Part of Bachmann's critique was that Perry's executive order, which he now says he would handle differently, was the byproduct of cronyism. Perry's former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, was a lobbyist for the drug company Merck, maker of the vaccine, at the time. In interviews following the debate, Bachmann reportedly went even further, suggesting that the vaccine was a "a very dangerous drug" and could cause "mental retardation."
But today, in an interview with the Tribune, DePinho said that as a physician, and the president of a leading cancer research institution and as a father of two young girls, "there's only one path here, which is to support vaccination."
"To do anything else would be unethical," DePinho said.
His recommendation for anyone who opposes the vaccine: "Visit one patient with cervical cancer in an advanced state."