Home > In the News, Preventable Diseases, Vaccine Myths > Bachmann’s Epic HPV Fail Has Unexpected Up-Side

Bachmann’s Epic HPV Fail Has Unexpected Up-Side

September 14, 2011

If you haven’t heard by now, than you probably haven’t read or watched any major news source in the past few days.

GOP presidential hopeful, and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, made some serious allegations about the HPV vaccine during Monday night’s debate.  Her main objective was to criticize her political opponent Rick Perry for his attempt to mandate the HPV vaccine for girls in his home state of Texas. While Perry’s attempt to protect his constituents from cervical cancer may have been heavy handed, his executive order was overruled and the mandate never enforced.  But Michele Bachmann’s reckless comments have taken hold in just a matter of days , injecting fear and doubt about the safety of the HPV vaccine.

However you view her performance at the debate, her comments about HPV can be considered an epic fail.

It’s important to note that Bachmann, who claims to be a defender of our freedoms, failed to even acknowledge the liberties we do have in this country.  No child is being forced to get this vaccine.  Suggested and encouraged?  Yes.  But forced? No.  Even if Rick Perry had been successful at making HPV a state mandated vaccine in Texas, parents would still have been able to exercise their option to exempt their child.

In her Tuesday morning interview on The Today Show, Bachmann once again demonstrated her ignorance on this subject when she suggested that the vaccine could cause “mental retardation” (her words, not mine).  As if that claim wasn’t bad enough, she made the statement in response to a brief conversation she had with a random mother she had met only hours before.  Any good parent – or politician – would know enough not to take the word of a complete stranger, but to consider doing some research before blasting opinions out over the airways that could impact the health decisions of millions of people.

I would have also expected that an educated mother, with a total of five children and 23 foster children, would have intimate knowledge about the health benefits of the HPV vaccine, as well as the numerous other vaccines that the CDC recommends for children.  Does she not have faith in government agencies like the CDC, who only recommend vaccines for our children after ensuring that they are both safe and effective?

Sadly, Bachmann’s behavior was motivated by personal political gain and it’s obvious that she hadn’t carefully considered the negative consequences of her suggestive  comments.

While it is possible that Bachmann’s personal opinions, heard by millions of people, may have some parents questioning the safety of the HPV vaccine, I would like to think that the unexpected up-sides of this debate has been the  immense amount of corrected information we are now seeing in the news about the HPV vaccine.

So, let’s not get upset about a few careless words from this mistaken politician. In fact, maybe we should thank her. In response to her outrageous unsubstantiated claims, practically every major news source has been quoting and interviewing the experts, who all agree that the vaccine is safe and beneficial.  Let us remember that Michele Bachmann is a politician. Not a doctor. Not a scientist. Like many of the anti-vaccine activists who comment on this blog and on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, she can try to make up her own facts, but that doesn’t make them true.

Doctors and scientists will gladly seize these media opportunities.

Not to criticize Michelle Bachman, but to correct her.

Not for their own personal gain, but to protect the health of others.

Not to frighten people, but to empower them.

As Dr. Nancy Snyderman explains in the video below, these medical professionals are concerned about the 6 million young men and women who will be infected with the HPV virus this year.  Most importantly, they know that the vaccine, which has proven to be both safe and effective, can help save the lives of the more than 4,000 women who will die from cervical cancer.

Below I have highlighted some of the recent coverage.  While Michele Bachmann should read them and weep, I say we read them and share.

Yes, share these articles with other parents and be the one to start the dialogue.  When you encounter people who are apprehensive, suggest that they get their vaccine recommendations from trusted medical sources,  not from politicians.  Let’s continue to encourage one another to vaccinate against HPV in order to protect today’s children from tomorrow’s cancer.

Today Show:  VIDEO Interview with Matt Lauer

Bachmann makes extraordinary claim that the HPV vaccine can have very dangerous side effects, such as sudden mental retardation.

Nightly News:  VIDEO with NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman

Dr. Snyderman responds to Michele Bachmann’s statement that the HPV vaccine can have very dangerous side-effects by saying, “The reality checks come from very august bodies – The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Family Physicians and the CDC – all weighed in today disagreeing with Michelle Bachman’s views, saying that over 35 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given with a tremendously good safety record. “

The New York Times: “In Republican Race, a Heated Battle Over the HPV Vaccine”

USA Today:  “Scientists say Bachmann Misstates Facts on HPV Vaccines”

Shots, NPR’s Health Blog:  “Pediatricians Fact-Check Bachmann’s Bashing Of HPV Vaccine”

 The New Yorker: “Bachmann’s Political Contagion”

New York Magazine:  “Debunking Michele Bachmann’s HPV Vaccine Anecdote”

TIME:  “Vaccination Causes ‘Mental Retardation’? Fact-Checking Michele Bachmann’s Claim”

NBC News: “Fact Check: No evidence to suggest HPV vaccine causes ‘mental retardation’”

ABC News: “Bachmann Needles Perry on HPV Vaccines”

CBS News: “Bachmann blasts Perry for HPV vaccine mandate, calls it ‘government injection’”

The Washington Post (Editorial): Bachmann’s wrongheaded attack on HPV vaccinations”

Associated Press/Huffington Post:  “Michele Bachmann on HPV Vaccine: Rick Perry Engaged in ‘Crony Capitalism’”

Los Angeles Times Blog:  The GOP debates the HPV vaccine, but the medical community gives it an OK”

Mother Jones:  The Problem is People Like Michele Bachmann”

Daily Caller:  “Bachmann goes out on a limb with HPV vaccine claims”

  1. September 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    As most of you know I live in Texas and have led a huge part of the immunization advocacy for the last 12 years. In those years, I have had the privilege to work with Governor Perry on many of these issues. In fact one of there first bills he signed into law was SB 31 which required all school age through college students and their parents to be educated on bacterial meningitis with a signed acknowledgment. It was the first of its’ kind in the US. Later he would sign day care law which required all to be fully immunized while adding pneumococcal vaccine to that list. He also signed one of the first bills in the country that allowed philosophical exemption from vaccines.

    As for the HPV bill I was actually at the capitol when this was purposed. I saw our governor pushing a young woman down the hall in her wheel chair who was dying with cervical cancer. I will never forget the look on his face. It was one of great sadness and passion. She had gone to him and pleaded for him to please help her stop this deadly preventable form of cancer. She was dying. Her time was short. He became committed to her cause. As you know the law never happened. 3 months after that day a very grieved Governor Perry gave the eulogy at her funeral. It was one of the most beautiful I ever read. It sadden me to hear all the negative media around his purpose. I wondered why he never included her in his defense as he even now takes unfair and unjust hits on this issue. I think it is the character of the man that would give a beautiful young woman her privacy even in death. As a citizen of Texas, I don not agree with everything our governor does. However, I believe his heart has and is for the people he represents. I believe every bill he has signed regarding immunization issues have been done with a thoughtful heart and care for all. Even the op-out though I did not agree with that one.

    I thank him of being a leader in helping our legislators, health department and advocates being a leading state on vaccine preventable diseases.

    Lastly, I have to say he is what we call a hunky cowboy in Texas… :) Giddy Up! Gov!!!

  2. Emily
    September 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Frankie, I did not know that backstory about the Texas bill. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Derek Wain
    November 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Bachmann ddi not say that “the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.” That is a fabrication by the media.
    In her interview with Matt Lauer, MB states that a mother came up to MB after the debate and told MB that “the HPV vaccine caused the mental retardation of the woman’s daughter.” Two very different concepts.
    MB’s statement has been systematically twisted and falsified by the MSM. Check out MB’s words in the original video.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/44499076#44499076

  4. Chris
    November 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Here is what is written above, emphasis added:

    As if that claim wasn’t bad enough, she made the statement in response to a brief conversation she had with a random mother she had met only hours before. Any good parent – or politician – would know enough not to take the word of a complete stranger, but to consider doing some research before blasting opinions out over the airways that could impact the health decisions of millions of people.

  1. September 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm
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