Vaccines and the US presidential campaign

16 09 2011

This week, the GOP (the republican ticket) held a debate among the presidential nominee hopefuls. Among those, I would like to focus on two: Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry.

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas, and has been for the past 11 years. He is also an A&M former student. Michelle Bachmann is, I think, leader of the Tea Party, a Congress representative for the state of Minnesota, and if anybody asks me, a nutcase, for many many reasons.

During the debate Bachmann was arguing against Rick Perry’s decision to make the HPV vaccine mantadory for women in Texas, and use this story as an argument:

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.

Perhaps Bachmann thought she was making a compelling argument. Unfortunately, she only showcased her poor understanding of science.

It is widely, and wrongly, believed in the US and other countries like the UK, that vaccines cause autism, mental retardation and other problems. This stemmed from a poorly written article published by the Lancet and that was retracted last year. As with any treatment, there are some risks associated with vaccination, and because of the sheer numbers of dosages administered, we are bound to see people suffer those side-effects.

Rick Perry’s heart was in the right place when he made HPV vaccination mandatory. It is a small economical expense compared to the economic and emotional toll cervical cancer can take on people. Also, having Texas endorse such vaccination might prompt other states into following.

Regardless of my political leanings, I still think Perry made a good move, and Bachmann desperately needs to brush up on her science.

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