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Posted at 01:14 PM ET, 09/14/2011

Michele Bachmann’s HPV claims just latest in Gardasil debate


Rep. Michele Bachmann. (SCOTT AUDETTE - REUTERS)
At the GOP debate Monday night, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for issuing a mandate in his state requiring young girls to get the HPV vaccine Gardasil.

She continued the attack Tuesday on the “Today” show, saying she had been approached by a mother who claimed her daughter suffered from mental retardation from complications due to the vaccine.

Her offense quickly turned to defense when her comments were criticized by an extremely long list of groups and people, including Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Post editorial board, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.

Bachmann is not the first to stir debate over HPV vaccination safety, with similar claims by family members of “vaccine victims” presented in the past in the press.

Gardasil was approved by the FDA in 2006 to protect males and females aged 9 to 26 against two types of HPV infection, according to the CDC. While serious complications have been reported in people who took the vaccine, the CDC maintains there is no evidence to support a link between adverse health issues and HPV vaccines.

“We have much more information about it now, and there have been no sudden surprises of adverse effects,” Dr. William Schaffner, director of prevention research at Vanderbilt University, told ABC News. “This is just an 'ouchy' vaccine. There are no other side effects to worry about.”

As reports of complications came to light in 2008, articles and TV reports questioning the safety of the vaccine presented scientific information against stories from girls claiming to have suffered from medical issues because of the vaccine.

One such story came from Emily Tarsell, whose daughter Christina received her first injection in 2008 and died 18 days later. She believes the events are linked. Tarsell has been interviewed by the CBS “Evening News,” ABC News, the Examiner, and other news outlets.

Of her HPV claim, Bachmann did not try to pass it off as medically sound. She told Sean Hannity, “I am not a doctor, I'm not a scientist, I'm not a physician ... All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me last night at the debate.”

In the wake of Bachmann’s comments, however, there doesn’t seem to be a rush of stories questioning the safety of Gardasil . There appears to be only one such story: a WISHTV Indianapolis report about Zeda Pingel, whose mother claims she’s suffered health problems after being vaccinated.

Vaccine criticism is most likely here to stay. Recently in Santa Cruz, Cailf., thousands of parents refused to vaccinate their children against whooping cough, despite an outbreak of the disease. A 2011 Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found that 48 percent of those polled think there’s a link between autism and vaccines, despite a lack of medical evidence. Still, the CDC reports that 90 percent of children between 19 and 35 months are being vaccinated.

This post incorrectly stated that Gardasil protects males and females against cervical cancer. It prevents two type of HPV infection.

By  |  01:14 PM ET, 09/14/2011

 
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