Pediatricians take a jab at GOP candidate's vaccines fearmongering

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Merck and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued statements responding to bizarre talk of Gardasil side effects in a Republican presidential primary debate.

In a TV interview following last night's debate, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) said: “It comes with some very significant consequences. 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.” 

The American Academy of Pediatrics responded: “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.”

In the debate, Bachmann lashed out at her rival Rick Perry over the Texas Governor's 2007 order mandating that sixth-grade girls get the HPV vaccine, which had then been on the market for less than a year. That move, though soon rescinded, came amid a Merck campaign aimed at state government officials and raised eyebrows, given Perry's opposition to abortion and stem cell research, along with the fact that his former chief of staff had recently joined Merck to lobby lawmakers in Austin. His gubernatorial campaign has netted nearly $30,000 in campaign contributions from Merck since, the Washington Post reported.  

Bachmann said in the debate: “To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong …. Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don't get a mulligan, they don't get a do-over,” and “I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate.”

Perry has defended the move on grounds that he "hates cancer," but has since retreated from his mandate, telling reporters "We shoudl have had an opt-in instead of an opt-out."

Merck responded by quoting the Institute of Medicine's recent statement that “Despite much media attention and strong opinions from many quarters, vaccines remain one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal.”

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