Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) says that it's just a coincidence that he and eight other lawmakers received donations of $5,000 each from Merck lobbyists just a few days before mandating the drug giant's HPV cervical cancer vaccine for all females in Texas ages 12 and up.

"There's been a lot of pressure about the implications of vaccinating young girls against sexually-transmitted diseases," says CNN's Ali Velshi in the video below, "some people thinking that that encourages promiscuity at that age."

He reports though that "this thing is coming undone by word, rumor and report of connection between Rick Perry's office and Merck."

The main lobbyist for Merck previously worked as Chief of Staff for Gov. Rick Perry. Several other states are considering making the vaccine mandatory, thanks in part to Merck's aaggressive lobbying.

Texas gov. firm on cancer vaccine

By Elizabeth White

Gov. Rick Perry defended his executive order requiring sixth-grade girls be vaccinated against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, saying that he believes with "all my heart" that he was right.

"I do not understand why we as a people would not take this opportunity to use this vaccine ... to the benefit of our children," Perry said Tuesday.

On Feb. 2, Perry issued an executive order requiring Texas girls entering the sixth grade as of 2008 to have the new Gardasil vaccine, produced by Merck & Co., that protects against strains of human papilloma virus.

"I do believe with all my heart that it was the right decision," he said.

Perry's remarks came hours before Merck announced it was immediately suspending its lobbying campaign to persuade state legislatures to mandate that adolescent girls get the vaccine as a requirement for school attendance.

"Governor Perry's executive order was not about a company. It's about saving lives and preventing women from contracting cancer," Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said after the announcement.

On Monday, House lawmakers in Austin held a lengthy hearing to take testimony on Perry's mandate and left early Tuesday without taking action on a bill that would override Perry's order. Many of the committee members raised questions about the vaccine's safety, efficacy and cost.

"For the life of me when the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the other experts come forward and say this is safe, it's been tested and it's available, why in the world would we not make it available," Perry said Tuesday.

Perry made the remarks while visiting the Cancer Therapy & Research Center in San Antonio to speak on behalf of his $3 billion proposal to fund cancer research in Texas.

He told reporters earlier this month about the impact cancer has had on his family. He said his father has had prostate cancer, his mother had colon cancer and his sister had bladder cancer. His father-in-law also had cancer.

"We have to make a decision as a people: Is this our moment to make a lasting and long-term impact on the world?" Perry asked. "I happen to think that it is."

Perry is proposing selling the lottery for at least $14 billion to fund cancer research, health insurance and education.

Heather Hermstad, 24, who has suffered from thyroid cancer, said the research proposal is important because "an opportunity to fight and increase our longevity is more valuable than anything."

Hermstad visits San Antonio from Southern California every two weeks for treatment, she said.