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cancer, STDs, vaccines

The damage of Michele Bachmann’s anti-vaccine porn

HPV infected cervical cells

Thanks to good old Michele Bachmann the HPV vaccine is in the news today. This is, of course, because the learned Ms. Bachmann spouted some piece of anti-vaccine porn about the HPV vaccine causing “retardation.”

While it is possible Ms. B is that gullible, I personally believe her repeating anti-vaccine rhetoric is part of her horse and pony show. She is very media savvy and understands her voter base. I rather suspect she says this kind of tripe to A) get in the news cycle (which she did, anyone hear much about Perry yesterday?) and B) shore up the fundraising base, because nothing loosens up the pockets of the extreme right-wing more than talk of banning a vaccine that is going to make our youth have more sex! (BTW the HPV vaccine, sex education, and birth control for that matter don’t cause kids to have more sex). There could also be a C) anti-vaccine types are often conspiracy theorists, so perhaps Bachmann is trying to reach out and say, “We all drink from the same teacup, you know.”

But what actually bothers me about Bachmanns vaccine bashing is that some people will believe her. Probably a lot of people, because only 25% fact check the medical information that they read on-line and I suspect it is the same, or lower, for medical info heard on the news. That’s why anchor men and women all look so trust worthy…they want you to believe them!

Bachmann’s bringing the HPV vaccine into the news cycle did cause a lot of people to ask questions (good!) and many to even research things (even better!), it also lead people to jump to conclusions. For example, several people tweeted me that they read on the CDC website that the “HPV vaccine has caused 68 deaths” and then wondered if I had better information than the CDC as I have said repeatedly (and I’ll say it again), there are no deaths caused by the HPV vaccine. This is a link to the CDC page on HPV vaccine safety and if you click here you will go to my last posting on a meta-analysis of 44,000 participants in HPV vaccine studies with no significant adverse events.

But because it is important here is the quote straight from the CDC:

So, if you read the whole section, while there have been 68 reported deaths thus far, once investigated only 32 could even be confirmed and there was nothing to suggest the deaths were caused by the vaccine. There are more in-depth reports in MMWR and JAMA for those who are so so inclined.

So while more discussion about HPV and the vaccine is always good, the real damage done by Michele Bachmann is that not only does she fuel the anti-vaccine movement (which operates on a pseudo-science platform), but more importantly some people will actually believe what they hear. (Who cares about women getting cancer when there is a war chest to fill!?)

And for those who wonder why I defend vaccines? It’s because they work. It’s because I care about evidence-based medicine.

And I don’t take Big Pharma money, so unlike Michele Bachmann I have nothing to disclose.

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Discussion

12 thoughts on “The damage of Michele Bachmann’s anti-vaccine porn

  1. I think this is spot on.. There are too many talking heads on television spreading medical and health misinformation to the masses. One day it is Bachman’s ignorance of vaccine science, the next day it’s Dr. Oz scaring parents about the contents of their children’s apple juice. Condemnation from the CDC, AMA and FDA cannot come quick enough in these circumstances. Unfortunately many of the people that believe these quack health and medical “news” stories are the same ones that distrust scientific research. As an epidemiologist, I enjoy your blog and share your quest for evidence based medical communication.

    Posted by Epidemiologist (@AskanEpi) | September 15, 2011, 3:18 pm
  2. I was very wary of Gardasil when it first came out, especially because it was brand new and they wanted to mandate it for girls going to school. I felt that was an unnecessary step to take, as you can’t transmit HPV simply by going to school with your peers. So the requirement for school entry was a bit much. Some vaccines have come out and been withdrawn immediately after release because something horrible happens, but this is very rare. It’s been out long enough at this point that we can gain a pretty good understanding about whether or not it’s safe. Of course, some people will still have adverse reactions, but that’s true of medications as well, and if you talk with your doctor about your circumstances, he or she can help you decide if the vaccine is right for you. There are sometimes contraindications for some people and they shouldn’t get vaccinated in some situations because of that.

    Either way, I think it’s everyone’s choice whether or not they want to vaccinate. I just wish more people would base it on actual science than pseudoscience rhetoric fueled by celebrities and politicians. There is no question in my mind about why pertussis has made a comeback…a reduction in vaccination rates. Whooping cough / pertussis is nasty business. An otherwise healthy infant can catch that and has a strong possibility of dying from it. I’d rather take my chances with the vaccines.

    Posted by Always Sick Chick | September 15, 2011, 4:01 pm
  3. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Bachmann’s misinformation campaign. Politicians need to stay out of medicine. I would point out, however, that the anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists are much more likely to be young, liberal, Democratic-leaning, organic food advocates than older anti-big-government “Tea Party” types who could care less about the vaccine but hate it whenever the government requires anyone to do anything. Maybe you have finally identified an issue that can bring the extreme right and extreme left together!

    Posted by Rich L | September 15, 2011, 4:36 pm
  4. Hi! I was wondering if there were longer-term studies conducted on Gardasil vaccinations: Are there any correlations involving effects occurring much later in life, including other cancers or other system-wide effects, or lesser-apparent birth defects that may not show up until the child is older?

    Basically, I have no idea about this vaccine, don’t know where to even start researching, and I randomly spent a lot of time studying asbestos effects (in context of regulatory policy), hence my curiosity about long-term (decade+) studies. Thanks!

    Posted by ln | September 15, 2011, 7:01 pm
  5. Relatedly, can’t showering kill you, too, given all those people that die in bathrooms? Ban water!

    Posted by ln | September 15, 2011, 7:02 pm
  6. I don’t like what Gov. Perry did, however good his intentions may have been. But Michelle Bachmann shouldn’t have said what she said either.

    Posted by Joshua Brett | September 16, 2011, 2:10 am
  7. LN- Gardasil is fairly new to the market so there aren’t too many long-term studies with results. You can check clinicaltrials.gov to see what research has been and is currently being conducted.

    Posted by Epidemiologist (@AskanEpi) | September 16, 2011, 4:49 pm
  8. This whole issue may have been contrived out of thin air. She seems very sneaky that way, and I suspect she has more intelligence than to have done this innocently. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWQsFOsOSGk&feature=share

    Posted by Midwife in UK | September 17, 2011, 5:23 pm
  9. Very nice article. I certainly appreciate this site. Keep writing!

    Posted by filme xxx | October 30, 2012, 3:04 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Getting the HPV shot without parental consent in California. What’s the big deal? « Dr. Jen Gunter - October 11, 2011

  2. Pingback: The mainstream media perpetuates HPV vaccine mythology « Dr. Jen Gunter - December 15, 2011

  3. Pingback: HPV Vaccine, Sex, and the Offspring | Positive Women's Network - June 20, 2013

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