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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Perry, Bachmann, and Vaccines

In The New York Post, Robert Goldberg of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest writes:

In Monday night’s debate, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum all seemed to be auditioning for the role that Jude Law plays in the film “Contagion” -- Alan Krumwiede, a blogger who tells millions that a vaccine to combat a lethal pathogen is actually dangerous, and claims both the epidemic and vaccine were created by government to enrich drug companies.

Krumwiede’s conspiracy theory proves deadly -- and so will these Republicans’, if anyone listens.

All three candidates slammed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for requiring immunization of 12-year-old girls against the human papilloma virus, a leading cause of cervical cancer. The attack truly became a blogworthy screed as we heard about how Perry and Merck (the developer of Gardasil, one of the two HPV vaccines) profited from the mandate at the expense of children’s health.

Bachman called Perry’s move “just wrong,” and spoke of “little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug.” The next day, she went further, telling Fox News’ Greta van Susteren: “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... This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions.”

Don’t be distracted by legitimate, but minor, questions about how states should make public-health decisions: The thrust of this attack is garbage -- and deadly garbage at that. The anti-vaccine psuedo-science behind the charge has been thoroughly discredited.

At Power Line, Steve Hayward says that Bachmann makes some legitimate criticisms of Perry on the vaccine issue.

But her embrace of the wacko idea that the vaccine is dangerous or causes autism, mental retardation, or other risks is simply irresponsible. Is Bachman, Glenn Reynolds quipped, trying to go after the Jenny McCarthy vote? (Glenn also links to Jonathan Adler’s quick take on this, which is the same as mine.)

Bachman passed along with complete credulity the claim of someone who she says came up to her after the debate attributing her child’s mental issues to the vaccine. I’ve heard a few people speculate darkly about whether such a person actually exists, or whether Bachman made it up or is trimming a bit from something she was told another time. You’d think our inquisitive news media would find this person and investigate, or that the person would now step forward (or that other people with similar claims would now step forward). Above all, this is a political mistake as well as a scientific one, as it has shifted the focus from Perry’s use of power to Bachmann’s scientific credibility—a lose-lose for everyone.