Heather Burcham, 31 — campaigner for HPV vaccinations

Then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry introducing Heather Burcham to Texas reporters, in Austin, Texas, Feb. 19, 2007 (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry introducing Heather Burcham to Texas reporters, in Austin, Texas, Feb. 19, 2007 (AP Photo/LM Otero, via Houston Chronicle)

From The Dallas Morning News of July 25, 2007:

Heather Burcham, HPV vaccine advocate, who died July 21, 2007

Face of state’s HPV vaccine debate dies from cervical cancer

Burcham worked to keep girls from getting cancer that killed her

08:20 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Associated Press AUSTIN – The 31-year-old woman who put a human face on the state debate over whether to require that schoolgirls be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer has died from the disease.

* * * * *

Earlier in this year’s legislative session, Ms. Burcham spoke to reporters about the issue at Mr. Perry’s request. She also tried to testify before a House committee considering the vaccine ban, but the hearing ran so late that she was unable to stay at the Capitol.

In a news conference to announce that he would not veto the bill, Mr. Perry closed with a video of Ms. Burcham speaking from her hospice bed.

With oxygen tubes snaking out of her nose, she spoke of the pain she had endured for four years. She also mourned for the husband she’ll never meet and the children she’ll never raise. “If I could help one child, take this cancer away from one child, it would mean the world to me,” she said. “If they knew what I was going through, how incredibly painful that this was … then I feel like I’ve done my job as a human on this earth.”

The governor said that Ms. Burcham “was intent on making a difference. Her life, she said, would not be in vain.”

The strains of HPV that the vaccine prevents cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. But opponents said the vaccine was still unproven, and some objected to a state mandate involving a sexually transmitted virus. Mr. Perry’s order would have allowed parents to decline to have their daughters inoculate.


I post this notice more than a week late. A discussion at Pharyngula revealed that many people either had not learned from the Texas discussion, or had already forgotten the key points. Then Only Crook provided the link to a homeschooler’s rant against the vaccine (read, “in favor of our children getting cancer”). Dear Reader: Remember Heather Burcham, and remember the facts about HPV vaccines.

Heather Burcham waiting to testify to the Texas lege

A thumbnail version of Heather Burcham’s photo by Eric Schlegelman

Update September 23, 2011:  Lots of hits on this post today, probably because of the association of Rick Perry with this issue.   Welcome, new readers.  I regret that the larger version of the photograph of Heather Burcham, by Eric Schlegelman of the Dallas Morning News, is no longer available at their website, to which I linked.  If you need a photo to publish, I urge you to contact the paper or Mr. Schlegelman to get a copy.

11 Responses to Heather Burcham, 31 — campaigner for HPV vaccinations

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Heather Burcham on vaccines against cancer:

    From Immunization Action Coalition.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    See the ABC World News profile of Heather Burcham as their person of the week:



  3. There is a risk associated with just about everything and I think people need to weigh up the pros and cons and the likely probabilities. And on balance I come down in favour of having the vaccine every time!


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    23 million people have had 3 shots, with no deaths attributed to the vaccine.

    On what basis do you say it’s dangerous, Karen?


  5. karen says:

    To the CDC FDA and Merck Anyone that’s pro-gardasil….Go get yourself some gardasil. Make sure everyone you loves gets 3 shots to. So you can watch them die a slow terrible death. Also give it to your friends that may want children and watch them become sterile. This vaccine is a joke.


  6. […] the Webmaster Link to Article hpv Heather Burcham, 31 — campaigner for HPV vaccinations » Posted at Millard […]


  7. Ray says:

    Hi Ed,

    Having a 2 year old I have had to recently decide on vaccines for her. I’ve read a lot about autism and other side affects, but have read and learned from informed sources that anything that would have caused a side affect like autism has been discontinued and the vaccines are much safer. I also have a very good pediatrician for my daughter who explains the vaccines, what is in them and gives me information that I can read or look up to better educate myself. ,

    Personally, I don’t have enough information to give an educated comment on the HPV vaccine, but before my daughter gets it you can bet I will have become an expert on the subject.



  8. mpb says:

    PS– may the state sue on behalf of the children?


  9. mpb says:

    Do the opponents only care about girls getting vaccinated or boys? The US is the only major country which doesn’t yet recommend the vaccine for boys. The links from EdD’s earlier post in my comment go to the medical and pathological images of boys and girls who get HPV.

    If parents don’t allow vaccination and their children get genital disfigurements and infections, may they sue their parents for abuse and/or neglect?


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Your post prompted me to check, and I’d given the wrong link for the last one listed — now it goes to my earlier post where I pose the issue as choosing cancer over Gardasil. Want to wager how ticked off Sprittibee will be at that characterization?


  11. onlycrook says:

    The homeschooler blog I read posted about this. Since she generally reads trackbacks, I’m going to post the link to her entry about it here in hopes that she will read your post and the links from it.



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