During a debate last week for Republican presidential candidates and in interviews after it, Representative Michele Bachmann called the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer "dangerous." Medical experts fired back quickly. Her statements were false, they said, emphasizing that the vaccine is safe and can save lives. Mrs. Bachmann was soon on the defensive, acknowledging that she was not a doctor or a scientist But the harm to public health may have already been done. When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop. "These things always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can't afford," said Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee oninfectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy favors use of the vaccine, as do other medical groups and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Denise Grady in today's NYT, on what will be the defining legacy of Bachmann's 2012 run for the Republican Presidential nomination.