Perry's staff discussed vaccine on day Merck donated to campaign
Gov. Rick Perry's chief of staff met with aides about the HPV vaccine on the same day the manufacturer donated money to his gubernatorial campaign. That's what documents obtained by The Associated Press show.
Perry spokesman Robert Black said the timing of the meeting and the donation was a coincidence.
Late Wednesday night, Black issued a statement saying, “The Associated Press has tried to create a conspiracy where none exists, and they have offered not one shred of evidence to their baseless accusations that the governor's office has done anything wrong.''
A Merck spokesman says he could not immediately comment but would look into the matter.
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 briefing. The meeting was on Oct. 16. That day, New Jersey-based Merck's political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry. Merck's PAC also gave $5,000 total to eight state lawmakers.
Black says Delisi had asked budget director Mike Morrissey to update her on the cost of providing the new human papillomavirus vaccine free to young women on Medicaid.
The calendar and other documents obtained by the AP show Perry's office began meeting with Merck lobbyists about the vaccine as early as mid-August.
This month, the governor issued an order requiring the HPV vaccine shots for girls entering sixth grade. Merck is the only maker of the vaccine.
Merck has been criticized for lobbying to make the vaccines mandatory for young girls. The company stands to make billions of dollars if the vaccine is required nationwide.
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