“I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate and tell me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” Bachmann said.
“It can have very dangerous side effects. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn’t know who she was before the debate. This is a very real concern, and people have to draw their own conclusion,” she said.
Most public health authorities, however, say that Merck’s Gardasil and a similar vaccine that was subsequently approved are safe. On Tuesday the American Academy of Pediatrics challenged the suggestion the vaccine could cause mental retardation.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation,” O. Marion Burton, the academy’s president, said in a statement. “There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”
“This is a life-saving vaccine that can protect girls from cervical cancer,” Burton said.
The vaccines have been “tested in thousands of people around the world,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site. “These studies showed no serious side effects. Common, mild side effects included pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea. As with all vaccines, CDC and [the Food and Drug Administration] continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines very carefully.” Some girls who get vaccinated also faint, the CDC noted.
“The vaccine has been licensed for over five years. Over 35 million doses have been given in the United States, and the evidence is it’s safe and effective. There has been no pattern of serious side effects or dangers associated with the vaccine,” said Joseph Bocchini of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, who chairs the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices working group on the HPV vaccine.
“One of the things that’s really important to remember with the use of vaccines is when we give vaccines to large numbers of individuals events that follow the vaccine are not always caused by the vaccine. Someone who was going to develop a medical problem is going to develop that problem whether they get the vaccine or not,” Bocchini said in a telephone interview.
He noted that the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine in August concluded there was no evidence the vaccine was associated with any serious health problems, including any neurological or cognitive problems. The only possible association was with severe allergic reaction in some rare cases, which can occur with any vaccine.