Bachmann's Anti-Vax Nonsense

Bachmann's Anti-Vax Nonsense September 14, 2011

You gotta hand it to Michele Bachmann. When she brings the crazy, she goes full monty crazy. On Fox News the other night she claimed that the Gardisil anti-HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, causing even conservative blogger Ed Morrissey to hammer her for it. Bachmann scored some points on Rick Perry during the Tea Party debate over his decision to mandate that vacine and then passed on this ridiculous story:

There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.

Morrissey responds:

Huh? “Mental retardation” typically takes place in a pre- or neo-natal event. Autism becomes apparent in the first couple of years of life — and primarily affects boys. Gardasil vaccinations take place among girls between 9-12 years of age. Even assuming that this anecdote is arguably true, it wouldn’t be either “mental retardation” or autism, but brain damage.

The FDA has received no reports of brain damage as a result of HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix. Among the reports that correlate seriously adverse reactions to either, the FDA lists blood clots, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and 68 deaths during the entire run of the drugs. The FDA found no causal connection to any of these serious adverse events and found plenty of contributing factors to all — and all of the events are exceedingly rare.

The “mental retardation” argument is a rehash of the thoroughly discredited notion that vaccines containing thimerasol caused a rapid increase in diagnosed autism cases. That started with a badly-botched report in Lancet that allowed one researcher to manipulate a ridiculously small sample of twelve cases in order to reach far-sweeping conclusions about thimerasol. That preservative hasn’t been included in vaccines for years, at least not in the US, and the rate of autism diagnoses remain unchanged.

The most charitable analysis that can be offered in this case for Bachmann is that she got duped into repeating a vaccine-scare urban legend on national television. It looks more like Bachmann sensed that she had won a point and wanted to go in for the kill, didn’t bother to check the facts, and didn’t care that she was stoking an anti-vaccination paranoid conspiracy theory, either. Neither shines a particularly favorable light on Bachmann.

Now let’s go for the accurate analysis: Bachmann is abysmally ignorant and virtually allergic to reality. And she doesn’t really care whether what she says is true as long as it’s politically useful.


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