The Background:  Gov. Rick Perry was forced to defend himself for mandating the HPV vaccine for young girls (also known as Gardasil) in Texas.  He previously had fought against this on social conservative anti-choice grounds as supposedly it would lead to these young girls thinking they could now become “promiscous” since they were “protected” from HPV and cervical cancer.  He was accused of being influenced by campaign contributions by Merck – the manufacturer of the vaccine.  Merck charges about $390 for the series of 3 inoculations so they stand to make some big bucks from this deal.

Ms. Bachmann later made a statement that a “woman she did not know came up to her and claimed that her daughter had taken the vaccine and had then become mentally retarded as a result”.  This claim has led to widespread vilification of Ms. Bachmann and equally widespread hysteria by the lamestream press about how safe the vaccine is and that it has been given to millions of people and nothing like this has ever happened and Bachmann should shut up and she should apologize and how dare she etc etc etc.

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

Vaccines are never without risk.  Gardasil is not without risk.  Mandating that every single girl get one of these vaccines is a risky proposition – unless the government is prepared to assume the liability when something goes wrong, and it WILL go wrong – inevitably.

Here is a report – and this report is  over a year and a half old.  I was not able to find a similar report that is any more recent.

Report Concerning Survey of Adverse Events Following Inoculations with Gardasil 
 2010 Emily Tarsell, LCPC and James Garrett, PhD   —   February 18, 2010 
 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that the rates of Adverse Events Following Injections (AEFIs) for the human papillomavirus recombinant vaccine (qHPV) Gardasil were not greater than background rates. They also acknowledge limitations in the re-porting system that could compromise this conclusion. On record as of 1/31/2010 were 15,829 AEFI reports including 49 deaths.
 The researchers listed a number of other major adverse effects including:  numbness, muscle pain, nausea and muscle weakness (reported by 60-70% of respondents), joint pain, chest pain, skin disorders and concentration problems, (more than 50%), menstrual problems (40%), Post-vaccine heart disorders (33%), and seizures (13-20%).   Now granted, none of these are mental retardation as claimed by Ms. Bachmann.  However, I think we can agree that this list does have some rather serious problems on it – especially as the age group we are talking about as 9-11 year olds.  And of course there are the 49 dead girls.

Another problem acknowledged in this report is the fact that the reporting system itself is so flawed that many minor problems do not get reported at all, and even many major ones do not since it is all completely voluntary on the part of doctors and other health care professionals.  In the case of Gardasil, it appears that the problems are dose-related and that each additional dose brings more problems so that the initial one may not be an issue, the second dose may begin to show some problems, and the third and final dose may be the one that tips over into a catastrophe but at that point it is much too late.

So, yes, Ms. Bachmann may be wrong to have made a claim or inference that Gardasil may cause or may have caused mental retardation in this unknown woman’s daughter.  But the media is just as wrong to be out there claiming that Gardasil is perfectly safe and that “noooothing like this has ever happened before” and so everyone should just rush out and get their kid a shot or three.  (By the way – Merck is now saying that boys should get it too!)

Vaccines are drugs.  All drugs have side effects.  Someone out there will get those side effects.  Yes, they are considered “rare and unusual”.  But someone still gets them in order for them to be listed side effects.   Some kids have pre-existing health problems including compromised immune systems and other issues.  That’s why the decision for a child to be vaccinated against anything should be left up to the parents and that kid’s doctor.  It should not be left up to a politician who has some drug company lobbyist’s hand in one of his pockets and his hand in the drug company lobbyist’s pocket as is the case here.