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Sep 17 2011

Which is a better political bludgeon: HPV vaccines, or cancer?

Via Greg Laden elsewhere on FtB:

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Michelle Bachmann has fired the footgun in a big way while attempting to take aim at Rick Perry in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, by claiming that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Knowing full well that the Human Papiloma Virus vaccine is a controversial issue amongst evangelical conservatives and others who feel that protecting people from STDs will encourage promiscuity, Bachmann was evidently hoping to score rhetorical points against Perry for having made this order by recounting an anecdote wherein a mother approached her after a rally telling her this story. The attempt has backfired spectacularly.

A bioethicist has offered Bachmann $10000 if she can show a single person having developed mental retardation after receiving the vaccine. Personally, I’d just like some proof that the mother Bachmann mentioned actually exists and actually told her this story, or if Bachmann’s misremembering some Jenny McCarthy nonsense about autism and framing it as though it happened first-hand.

Meanwhile cervical cancer, caused in almost every case by HPV, is the twelfth most common type of cancer, and fifth most deadly in women. It affects 16 per 100,000 women per year, and kills 9 per 100,000 per year. The HPV vaccine is effective against two of the most prevalent strains of the virus, making up 70% of all cases. This would reduce mortality and morbidity to this disease significantly, and it costs almost nothing compared to treating women who have suffered from the disease.

That is not to mention the stunning talent this world loses every day to the disease. Talent like Stephanie Zvan, a co-blogger here at Freethought Blogs and close friend, without whose presence my life would be significantly poorer. She takes Bachmann to task for her emotional manipulation, providing herself as an example of a real person whose life might not have been in such jeopardy, who might not have had to endure such “helpful violence” as she was forced to endure, with the HPV vaccine.

To be quite frank, I hope this scuttles Mayor Crazy of Crazytown’s presidential bid.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Rich Stage

    She always seems good for a laugh.
    Her wheat is much less than her chaff
    Why’d she say what she said?
    Not the air in her head!
    It’s not her fault Bachmann makes gaffes.

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    I figure one of Bachmann’s rivals sent the woman up to tell her the story, knowing she’d look repeat it and look foolish.

  3. 3
    Caron Ryalls

    My 13 year old daughter suffered an adverse reaction to Cervarix, which the HPV vaccine used in the UK. Before her jab she played competitive sport, danced competitively and was a high achieving student. Although the reaction isn’t life threatening (we hope), my daughter has suffered ME-type symptoms, lethargy, fatigue, muscle pains, headaches, menstrual problems and her grades at school suffered due to the amount of school days missed. We have no way of knowing what the long term effects will be.
    The question is would I rather my daughter suffer a year (so far) of health problems and have uncertain future health issues and have to cope with disrupted schooling so that she has protection against cervical cancer?
    The HPV vaccine claims to protect against about 70% of HPV related cervical cancers. The makers of the vaccine do not know with any certainty how long this protect lasts – they claim it will certainly last 5 years but any longer is pure guesswork, so boosters would have to be arranged at age 16 or 17 to provide continued protection.
    The makers also have not claimed to provide 100% protection to those vaccinated as the vaccine is only effective if the girl has not been exposed to HPV previously (and bear in mind that HPV has been found in babies, so is not exclusively sexually transmitted), so the 70% protection is being whittled down to a figure no-one can pin-point with any accuracy.
    We are not told how many of those diagnosed with or die due to cervical cancer had regular pap tests, so we have no way of assessing the effectiveness of a regular pap testing programme compared to the HPV vaccine as a means of preventing cervical cancer.
    Genetically engineered HPV DNA has recently been found in the bloodstream of a girl vaccinated with Gardasil two years previously. This DNA should not be there! And the implications from it being there are very frightening.
    The facts are that these vaccines were fast-tracked for approval and the full implications of there use has yet to be experiences. As a parent, if I could turn back the clock, I would never willingly put my daughter through this year of hell and jeopardize her future education and health, when, with regular pap tests, her chance of suffering cervical cancer is low.

  4. 4
    Stephanie Zvan

    Caron, not to minimize your daughter’s difficulties, but you do understand that if the immune response to the vaccine caused her problems, exposure to the virus itself might well have had much more adverse effects, yes?

    Also, your figures on who will and won’t be helped by the vaccine ignore the effects of herd immunity. If a mother doesn’t get the virus because of the vaccine, she’s going to be hard pressed to pass it on to her baby. Vaccines are at least as much about preventing the spread of disease to the people who won’t be directly helped by the vaccine as they are about affecting any individual’s immune response.

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