Michele Bachmann found a chink in the conservative armor of Rick Perry, and she plans to exploit it for all it is worth. During the Republican debate Monday, the U.S. House member from Minnesota and other presidential aspirants took the Texas governor to task for an executive order he issued in 2007.The order required 12-year-old girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus. Research indicates the vaccine is most effective when given before adolescents are sexually active. The vaccine protects against the viruses known to cause almost all cervical cancers, plus some oral and anal cancers. Texas legislators overrode the order before it was enacted.The criticism hardly comes as a surprise. Conservatives oppose mandated immunizations as a government assault on parental rights. A program that targets preteens in an effort to combat the sexually transmitted infection thus raises particular ire, critics contending it practically encourages sexual activity at a young age.Lost in the attacks is the responsibility of governments, federal, state and local, to create an environment that enhances the general health of the public, and immunization requirements play a critical part in any credible and effective strategy for public health.Perry, unfortunately, has backed off his early support for an HPV immunization plan that he understood would help reduce the estimated 6 million cases a year of HPV infections and the incidence of cervical cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports roughly 12,800 cases of cervical cancer so far this year, with nearly 4,300 deaths. Until presidential ambition rose to the fore, Perry had argued — and correctly so — that the vaccination order involved protecting health and life.A vaccination program by no means offers 100 percent certainty. Researchers point out that the two vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Gardasil and Cervarix, protect against only certain types of more than 150 related human papillomaviruses. It is protection that millions of women and girls need.