On the national stage of presidential primary politics, Rep. Michele Bachmann is ranting that the HPV vaccine can cause permanent damage to children. The HPV vaccine is safe and over 99% effective in protecting against HPV - the cause of genital warts and linked to cervical cancer. Uptake of the vaccine is already low, with less than 1 in 3 US teenage girls being vaccinated. Coverage is worst among minorities and low income kids. 6 million people are diagnosed with HPV each year, and 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her misinformed and irresponsible comments will likely do damage to public health, at least among those few who see her as credible.
The Washington Post
Posted by Rachel Weiner at 11:02 AM ET, 09/13/2011
Perry has apologized for the mandate, saying it was a mistake. One of his former top aides had gone on to become a lobbyist for vaccine-maker Merck & Co. and pushed the governor for an executive order.
Social conservatives argue that the vaccine, which protects against a sexually-transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer, encourages promiscuity. Perry’s decision has already riled up conservative activists; it might be Bachmann’s best hope to win back those voters.
Post-debate, the Minnesota congresswoman sent out a fundraising appeal on the issue with the title “I’m Offended.” In interviews after the debate, she suggested that the vaccine could do permanent damage.
“There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine,” Bachmann said on Fox News. “She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”
Bachmann repeated the allegation on the “Today Show” this morning, adding, “It’s very clear that crony capitalism could have likely been the cause, because the governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company.”
And she’s getting support from a sometime-rival, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. "You have to go up against the big guns," Palin said on FOX News last night. “And they will try to destroy you, when you call them out on the mistakes that they have made.” The phrase “crony capitalism” is one Palin used in a speech in Iowa last weekend and repeated last night.
The Center for Disease Control notes on its website that less than one percent of recipients reported “adverse events” after receiving the vaccine. Of those, 8 percent were “serious adverse events” — including Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurologic disorder that causes paralysis and muscle weakness, not mental problems. According to the CDC, “There has been no indication” that the vaccine “increases the rate of GBS above the rate expected in the general population, whether or not they were vaccinated.”
But Bachmann clearly thinks she’s found a powerful line of attack against Perry, whose entrance into the race helped precipitate her fall in polls.