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Perkins: Perry's 'going to have to be a little clearer' on HPV

As social conservatives continue to mull over the controversy regarding Gov. Rick Perry's 2007 mandate of a vaccine to young girls to prevent HPV, one Christian leader is urging Perry to keep clarifying his apology for pushing the policy.

"He's going to have to be a little clearer," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in an interview with NBC News on Wednesday evening. "He's going to have to  say, 'That was a violation of the sacred relationship between parent and child.'"

Perkins, an influential voice in evangelical circles, said that Perry has offered a similar explanation in private conversations but has not adequately explained to the broad audience of social conservatives why he regrets using an executive order to administer the Gardasil vaccine to 12 year old girls.

"He just wasn't that strong on this in the debate, and it opened him to [attacks from] other candidates," Perkins said. 

Perry has defended his motive for the mandate, saying that he intended to help eradicate the danger of cervical cancer that is caused by HPV. But he has apologized for instituting the policy through executive order rather than through the legislature. And on Wednesday in Richmond, he went a step further, saying that the policy should have allowed parents to "opt-in" to the immunization rather than only offering them the chance to "opt-out."

Asked to respond to Michele Bachmann's allegation on Monday that the vaccine could be linked to mental retardation, Perkins warned against "blanket statements" and noted the absence of such a documented side effect. But, he added, the long term effects of the vaccine are not fully understood - a fact of which parents should be aware.

Perkins and Perry overlap frequently at events that mingle religion and politics. The FRC head was a speaker at Perry's 30,000 strong "Response" event in Houston in August; Perry has announced that he will attend Perkins' Values Voters Summit in Washington DC in October.