Not getting political here, but since she brought it up…

Not getting political here, but since she brought it up…

After Monday night’s Republican debate, Michele Bachmann appeared on NBC’s TODAY show continuing to criticize Governor Rick Perry’s 2007 executive order that middle school girls in Texas receive the life-saving HPV vaccine, Gardasil. During the debate, Bachmann accused Perry of receiving campaign contributions from the maker of Gardasil, Merck & Co., subsequently profiting from the public health mandate.

Bachmann made her point, but REALLY should have stopped there.

She went too far by instilling unsubstantiated fear in the minds of parents and girls over a vaccine that has been proven to be safe and has the ability to save women from a virus known to cause cervical cancer.  In her interview with Matt Lauer, she states:

“I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.  It can have very dangerous side effects. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn’t know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions.”

We live in an age where life-saving vaccines are often sources of unwarranted fear perpetuated by non-evidence based anecdotes, hysteria, and invalid studies. To plant the seed that the HPV vaccine is linked to mental retardation is perhaps one of the most dangerous and irresponsible remarks that Bachmann has ever made, and it could have lasting consequences. After all, the MMR vaccine vs. autism study appearing in The Lancet that began the movement for parents to withhold life-saving vaccines from their children has been withdrawn, yet the hysteria still remains.

Over the past two days the medical community has strongly come forward with damage control against Bachmann’s remarks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a formal press release stating:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that girls receive HPV vaccine around age 11 or 12. That’s because this is the age at which the vaccine produces the best immune response in the body, and because it’s important to protect girls well before the onset of sexual activity. In the U.S., about 6 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year, and 4,000 women die from cervical cancer. This is a life-saving vaccine that can protect girls from cervical cancer.”

There has already been much backlash regarding Bachmann’s comments and hopefully there will continue to be more over the next several days. The quicker we can dispel this crude and unsubstantiated rumor, the better!

For more information on the HPV virus, cervical cancer, and Gardasil, check out these websites:

CDC information about HPV:

Gardasil Vaccine Information:

Check out the NBC’s story on the Bachmann backlash, including expert opinion from NBC’s Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman:

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