Editorial: Bachmann used poor evidence to argue valid point in debate

At last Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate, Republican candidate Michele Bachmann criticized Gov. Rick Perry’s 2007 executive order to require the HPV vaccination for girls. It wasn’t Bachmann’s criticism of “Perrycare” during the CNN tea party debate Sept. 14, but the story behind her argument that raised eyebrows.

Perry’s order would have required all sixth-grade girls to get vaccinated unless their parents opted out.

The Texas Legislature, however, quickly overturned the order, much to Perry’s chagrin.

On Wednesday, Bachmann questioned Perry’s order with an argument that would be highly criticized by both the political and medical world.

“I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate,” Bachmann said. “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night.”

“Mental retardation” is not something a child can catch, but a genetic disorder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics later released a statement on Bachmann’s comments, saying, “There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record.”

That being said, the real argument Bachmann should have led with is one grounded in truth.

HPV is a virus caused by an action. To require an HPV vaccine for 12-year-old girls in the same way kindergartners are required to receive immunization shots is not only unnecessary, but inappropriate.

Bachmann isn’t the only candidate who disagrees with Perry. At the debate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said the vaccine is “having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government.”

The fact is, HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, meaning it is caused by an action. To subject girls to vaccinations for a disease caused by sex portrays the wrong message to children.

Parents can opt out of the vaccine, but the drug gives a false sense of security to poorly educated young girls.

On the other hand, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and second-leading cause of cancer among women, making the vaccine an important healthcare breakthrough. There should be alternate avenues of availability, however.

As of July, the cost of the HPV vaccine is $130 per dose with three doses needed for a full series. Education and affordability for adult women should be the real center of Perry’s reforms.

Shortly after Perry issued the executive order, it was revealed the governor received donations in the amount of $5,000 from the drug company, Merck. Coincidentally, Merck manufactures the HPV vaccine Gardasil.

Perry rebutted Bachmann’s claim, saying, “I raise about $30 million and if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

Despite the relatively low monetary gain, one can’t help but wonder where Perry’s motives lie.

Whether or not any form of mandatory HPV vaccination will ever pass the Legislature is yet to be seen. Whether or not a child receives a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease, however, should be a decision left to the parents.