by Chris Haire
As you know, during Monday night's GOP debate Michele Bachmann attacked Rick Perry for his 2007 executive order requiring all six grade girls in Texas to get the HPV vaccine. It was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, she just went about it the wrong way, choosing to make the erroneous claim that the vaccine causes mental retardation, a claim based upon a single anecdote from a single person. Ugh.
By now, we all know that Bachmann is a nutter, a Christian fundamentalist basket case, and this particular breed loves a good story, especially friend-of-a-friend-of-a-fraud tales, the more cautionary the better. So the paranoid, pseudo-science bullshit that came out of her mouth at the debate really shouldn't have surprised anybody.
It's the same cuckoo-for-caca we hear from Jenny McCarthry, a former Playboy bunny who enjoyed a brief career picking her nose on a MTV game show: Vaccines cause retardation in children.
In McCarthy's case, it's the MMR vaccine which targets measles, mumps, and rubella. In Bachman's, it's the HPV vaccine.
Well, the truth of matter is this: the HPV vaccine doesn't cause retardation; Michele Bachmann does. And no, I do not have any scientific evidence in my possession that proves this, but I know there are studies out there proving this. I know it. I know it. I know it.
But back to the matter at hand. Ever since Michele made her retardation claim, her campaign has taken a licking. In fact, many believe her chances of winning the GOP nod are now slim to none . Then again, her campaign was over with as soon as fellow fundie Rick Perry entered the race. The Christian Conservative are nothing if not a sexist bunch who believe that the womenfolk must do as the men bid.
Which is why it's a shame — at least for Bachmann's camp — that they missed an excellent chance to attack Perry.
Let me explain.
Everybody gets HPV.
OK. Not everybody, but enough people get HPV for it to be so commonplace that's it's almost inconsequential.
According to the CDC, 50 percent of all sexually active adults will contract the virus at some time in their lives. For women over 50 years old, that percentage jumps to 80 percent.
At any one point, an estimated 20 million Americans have HPV, and 6 million get it every year. (That's 6.7 percent and 2 percent respectively.) If you've ever had a wart, any wart, you've had HPV. And it doesn't matter where it is — your hands, your feet, or your nether regions. It's all the same.
The point is most cases of HPV are harmless. However, some types can help cause cancer. Fortunately, those cases are very rare.
Consider this: According to the CDC, 11,000 women were diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer in 2008; 3,900 died as a result. And while there's no way to factor in the toil that a diagnosis has on these women and it's impossible to overstate the tragedy of a loss of life, the number of women diagnosed with this cancer amounts to 0.008 percent of the total female population while the deaths amount to 0.0026 percent.
Now, even though these numbers or low, would I still give my two daughters the HPV vaccine? Why yes? But should state or federal government require parents to shell out their hard earned money to pay for the vaccine? No. HPV simply isn't a big enough danger.
So why did Rick Perry mandate the vaccine?
Merck, the manufacturer of the HPV vaccine, makes around $130 for a single treatment; the vaccine needs to be administered three times, bringing the total to $390. And with 2009 Census figures putting the number of girls 15-19 years of age at living in the U.S. at 11,000,000, Merck stands to make $4.29 billion dollars if states across the nation if HPV vaccines are required. I don't know about you, but that's a hunk of change.
As is the amount of money that Perry has been given by Merck. According to a report in the Post and Courier:
Perry's gubernatorial campaign, for example, received nearly $30,000 from the drugmaker since 2000, most of it before his decision in 2007 to order young girls to obtain Merck's vaccine against the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
To make matters worse, the P&C reports that "former chief of staff Mike Toomey, was working at the time as a lobbyist for Merck, which was in the midst of a multimillion-dollar campaign to persuade states to make the vaccine mandatory."
I don't know about you, but something doesn't smell right here. Not one bit. Too bad the Bachmann campaign didn't smell it too.