Quicktakes: Michele Bachmann and the HPV Vaccine

Recently, Michele Bachmann utilized some old-fashioned fear mongering in order to slam Republican presidential frontrunner and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Bachmann based her entire condemnation of the HPV vaccine — and Perry’s executive order mandating it’s use — by sharing an anecdote from a weeping mother who claimed the vaccine caused her daughter’s mental retardation.  While Bachmann is being denounced left and right by medical professionals in the Centers for Disease Control and the Institute of Medicine, she has also successfully carved her place as a media hot topic with the all-too-common political use of fear.

As with any good political ploy, Bachmann’s allegations contain some facet of truth. Perry did indeed sign the executive order for young girls to get the HPV vaccine without bringing it to a vote. Perry’s deep political ties with Merck, the corporation that makes the vaccine and the employer of Perry’s former chief of staff, brings attention to Perry’s questionable motives in supporting the executive order.
However, Bachmann’s allegations about the dangers of the vaccine have no basis in medical fact. Medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have re-reviewed studies and released statements denying the dangers of the vaccine in response to Bachmann’s statement.  Correct or not, Bachmann’s comments have thrust her into the political spotlight. This controversy alone has plastered Bachmann all over the major networks including CNN, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and any other network with initials.

Of course, this is no “Daisy ad” and probably won’t be a major factor in her run for president, but it might just be enough to get her to increase her exposure — just what the doctor ordered.
—Chelsey Davis
Staff Writer

In the wake of the Republican presidential debate, Republican presidential -candidate Michele Bachmann denounced the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine for causing “mental retardation” on Fox News, the Today Show and various radio stations. This claim was meant to trip up the leading Republican candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed an executive order mandating the vaccine amongst twelve-year-old girls. The statement may be drawing welcome media attention to Bachmann, but at an extreme cost. This cheap political gambit could potentially turn young girls and their parents away from the vaccine.

Bachmann’s claim holds no weight. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the Institute of Medicine show that 35 million doses of the HPV vaccine “Gardasil” have been administered with no reported cases of mental retardation. In response to Bachmann’s accusation, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement correcting Bachmann’s misinformation. Still, even assurances from credible sources are not powerful enough to reverse the speculation that was activated in the American public.

In 2010, a false autism vaccine link was thought to have caused the biggest whooping cough epidemic of the past 60 years. Although studies show that the whooping cough vaccine in no way leads to autism, a scare was enough to cause ten infant deaths that could have been avoided with proper vaccination according to the California Department of Public Health.
Parents will likely be more cautious when deciding whether to let their children get the HPV vaccine, despite the fact that nearly 6 million people in the U.S. become infected with HPV and 4,000 women die from cervical cancer annually, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Once a statement this powerful is released into the media, regardless of the source, people will take notice.
—Revathy Sampath-Kumar
Staff Writer

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