updated 4/26/2007 9:32:52 AM ET 2007-04-26T13:32:52

Texas lawmakers rejected Gov. Rick Perry’s anti-cancer vaccine order Wednesday, sending him a bill that blocks state officials from requiring the shots for at least four years.

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Perry has said he is disappointed but has not indicated whether he will veto the bill. He has 10 days to sign or veto it, or the proposal will become law without his signature.

Lawmakers can override a veto with a two-thirds vote of both chambers. The legislation passed by well over that margin in both chambers.

Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the bill’s House sponsor, said he believes it is fair and reasonable.

“I think the governor should see this as the Legislature making a very clear and respectful statement, and I hope he’ll accept our wishes,” Bonnen said.

The vaccine protects girls and women against strains of the sexually transmitted virus that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.

Delayed for four years
Perry was on his way to the Texas-Mexico border, where tornadoes killed several people overnight. His spokeswoman, Krista Moody, said his position on the vaccine law has not changed since the day he issued the order.

“The governor looks forward to a day when cervical cancer is eradicated and Texas women no longer have to cope with the devastating effects of this disease,” she said, adding that the Legislature’s actions will “delay that day for another four years.”

Wednesday’s vote by the House to accept changes made by the Senate is one of the final steps in a fight that began in February, when Perry made national headlines with an executive order requiring the human papillomavirus vaccine for sixth-grade girls.

The Legislature was outraged that Perry acted without consulting them. Just days after the governor issued the order, prominent legislators promised to do whatever it took to overturn the order, saying the vaccine is too new to force on Texas families.

After an emotional, six-hour public hearing, the House approved a bill last month barring state officials from requiring the vaccine for school attendance. The Senate adopted the bill on Monday, after deciding to let the ban expire in four years so the vaccine’s risks and benefits can be re-evaluated.

Veto overrides are rare, primarily because most major bills are passed toward the end of the legislative session and the governor has 10 days to take action on them. The last one happened in 1979.

The governor’s order was supposed to have taken effect in September 2008.

The vaccine protects against four strains of the sexually transmitted HPV infection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the vaccine for girls and women ages 9 to 26.

About half of all men and women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recommends that girls get the vaccine when they are 11 or 12 so they will have immunity before they become sexually active.

Bills have been introduced in about 20 states to require the vaccine amid some safety concerns and protests from conservatives who say requiring it promotes promiscuity and erodes parents’ rights.

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