News Thursday September 15, 2011

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann criticised for HPV vaccine claims

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who is running for president for the Republican Party in the United States, has received criticism from medical bodies after claiming that the HPV vaccination can cause "mental retardation".

The issue arose during a presidential debate in which Bachmann challenged Texas Governor Rick Perry over a previous mandate that young girls should be given the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, called Gardasil. The mandate was never passed, but Perry continues to receive criticism because he was given a $5,000 donation for his re-election campaign from the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the vaccine, Merck and Co. Bachmann called this “crony capitalism”, but was also focused on the fact that “innocent little girls” would be “forced to have a government injection”, which she considers to be “wrong”.

Despite these comments, it was Bachmann’s comments in a later interview that lead to a backlash from the medical and scientific community. During an interview with the Today Show, Bachmann made further claims about the potential permanent adverse effects of the HPV vaccine, telling a story of “a woman who came up crying to [her]... after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”

In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics has spoken out against these claims, seeking in a statement “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.” They reiterate that the HPV vaccine, which offers protection against cervical cancer, is recommended to girls aged 11 or 12. Rush Limbaugh, a conservative political commentator, said on his radio show that Bachmann’s comments may mean she has “blown it”.

The HPV vaccine is controversial among social conservatives, as they claim that it encourages young girls to be promiscuous.

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