Health

Blurting Nonsense

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorSep 15, 2011 11:52 AM

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Gail Collins writes today in her NYT op-ed that Michelle Bachmann

scored a Tea Party version of a home run when she laced into Rick Perry for trying to require girls in Texas public schools to be vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.

A bit further down in her column:

About the vaccine. It's been proved to be effective in reducing cervical cancer in sexually active women, and it apparently works best if you begin the shots around age 12. The intense opposition from the social right appears to be based on the idea that once the kids had the shots they'd be more likely to have sex. Or, in the convoluted and creepy words of Rick Santorum: "Unless Texas has a very progressive way of communicating diseases in their school by way of their curriculum, then there is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government." Then, Bachmann tossed in another argument: vaccines are dangerous. "I had a mother last night come up to me ... she told me her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter," Bachmann told one TV interviewer after another. O.K., hold the phone. Let's presume that Bachmann is being accurate, and that the woman in question was not someone she heard about from a friend of a friend's cousin in Xenia, Ohio. What would you expect a candidate for president of the United States to do after such an encounter? Take a name? Investigate the case? Would a contender for the White House "” or even the Zoning Board of Appeals "” just blurt out something they heard from a stranger that could discourage parents from accepting vaccinations that could save their children's lives? The Bachmann campaign did not respond to my questions about who the woman was or what the candidate did to check out the information. So I guess maybe, yeah.

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