It’s a new twist on an old story. Michelle Bachmann has possibly been duped into repeating an urban legend concerning the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine. After the recent debate with Governor Rick Perry in which she confronted Perry’s mandate that young girls get the vaccine, Bachmann told the story on Fox News that, “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result…”
According to this article in the Washington Post today, “Social conservatives argue that the vaccine, which protects against a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer, encourages promiscuity.” This was the first point in this article where my skepticism reflex nudged me a little. Are they equating this method of disease prevention to condom or birth control use? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to vaccinate all young girls in order to prevent disease later?
Another article in the Washington Post voiced a concern of some critics of the vaccine that, “…vaccinating children would send a subtle signal that their parents assumed they would become sexually active and that it would give youngsters a false sense of security.”. This is where education comes it. Teach the young people about what HPV and other STDs are. Explain that these are the risks you take when you become sexually active. Teach them what they can do to prevent getting STDs. Studies have shown repeatedly that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. In my opinion it is better to use the tools at our disposal than put young people at risk for a disease that can be prevented. The vaccine is ultimately less expensive than the treatments for cervical cancer.
In that same statement, Bachmann also said, “It (the vaccine) can have very dangerous side effects”. However, most public health authorities say that Merck’s Gardasil (the HPV vaccine) and a similar vaccine were subsequently approved as safe.
The vaccines have been “tested in thousands of people around the world,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site. “These studies showed no serious side effects. Common, mild side effects included pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea. As with all vaccines, CDC and [the Food and Drug Administration] continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines very carefully.” Some girls who get vaccinated also faint, the CDC noted.
“The vaccine has been licensed for over five years. Over 35 million doses have been given in the United States, and the evidence is it’s safe and effective. There has been no pattern of serious side effects or dangers associated with the vaccine,” said Joseph Bocchini of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, who chairs the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices working group on the HPV vaccine.
“One of the things that’s really important to remember with the use of vaccines is when we give vaccines to large numbers of individuals events that follow the vaccine are not always caused by the vaccine. Someone who was going to develop a medical problem is going to develop that problem whether they get the vaccine or not,” Bocchini said in a telephone interview.
Either Michelle Bachmann simply did not know any better or she is pushing a conservative agenda based on her debate with Perry and his (former) stance on mandating the HPV vaccine. If it truly is the former, then her people need to address her education in that matter. Yes, I know that so far she has not shown herself to be knowledgeable in science. If she’s going to be a serious contender for the presidential race, she really ought to do something about that.
If, however, Michelle Bachmann is intentionally misleading the public about the HPV vaccine for her own political agenda, then there needs to be a Michelle Bachmann Body Count website along with Jenny McCarthy’s.