Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, the Republican who's vying to be the next president, is known for spouting some ridiculous things. Comparing The Lion King to gay propaganda, claiming Glenn Beck can solve the national debt crisis, and calling global warming "voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax". But the latest line to come out of her mouth isn't just ridiculous and untrue; it's dangerous to the health and well-being of women.
By Zoë Ruderman
Bachmann went on the Today Show and insinuated that the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer (you might know it as the HPV vaccine) could lead to serious health problems and maybe even mental retardation. She said, "I had a mother come up to me last night 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. 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."
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Bachmann has since admitted that she is not in fact a doctor or scientist. Too bad she nevertheless decided to use one woman's odd story to suggest that the HPV vaccine is not safe. Because as the New York Times noted, the damage is already done.
They reported, "When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop. 'These things always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can't afford,' said Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Historically, Dr. Willoughby said, vaccine scares have caused vaccination rates to drop and have led to outbreaks of diseases that had previously been under control, like measles and whooping cough."
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Considering that the HPV vaccine has the potential to save lives by preventing women from getting cervical cancer and that numerous studies have concluded that the vaccine is safe and doesn't lead to mental disabilities, we hope Bachmann's words don't discourage parents from getting their daughters vaccinated. Because, as a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics told Time's Healthland blog: "Six million people contract HPV each year in the U.S., and 4,000 women die." He added that it's a life-saving vaccine that can protect girls from getting cervical cancer later in life.
What do you think of Bachmann bashing the vaccine? Do you think it will affect whether or not women decide to get the shots for themselves or their daughters?
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