In a broadcast interview this morning, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) suggested the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, mandated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2007, caused a girl to suffer "mental retardation."Talking with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show, Bachmann said, "A mother...told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying... This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions."In 2007, Perry signed an executive order requiring sixth-grade girls to be inoculated against HPV, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. He later said it was a mistake to act unilaterally, and the executive order was eventually overturned by the Texas Legislature.Let's Be Clear
There is no evidence that the FDA-approved HPV vaccines (there are two, Cervarix and Gardasil) cause mental retardation. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that both vaccines have been tested in thousands of people around the world and no serious side effects have been reported. Side effects of approved drugs continue to be monitored and reported, and if the side effects are great or frequent enough, a drug will be pulled from the market. The few anecdotal stories of serious side effects from these vaccines have not been validated.Just the Facts, Ma'am
• HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women
• About 11,000 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
• About 4,000 American women die each year from cervical cancer
• Both vaccines are very effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers
• Michelle Bachmann is a tax attorney, not a medical professionalAs the campaign rhetoric continues to heat up, it's important to separate fact from fiction. HPV-related cancers are expected to rise significantly in the next decade, according to the National Cancer Institute. We need to develop a public health response that's based on actual science, not hysteria and hyperbole.