I’ve been keeping Dr. Wife abreast of the controversy raging among conservatives about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s mandate to vaccinate 12 year old girls against HPV. She is very supportive of the vaccine saying “It is one of the few weapons against cancer we have,” and believes that boys should get it as well since they can be carriers of the virus, and it is not known whether the virus contributes to other male urinary tract diseases such as prostate and bladder cancer. What is known is that it prevents cervical cancer in women, and may protect them against other cancers as well.
I have been an apologist for Michelle Bachmann, believing that she has been treated unfairly by a misogynistic press that hates conservatives. But her attempts to beat Perry down with this controversy have crossed the line from political theater into the absurd. By courting the anti-vaccine crowd she has shacked up with Ron Paul in Crazytown and shown that she may be just as loony as the left-wing press has made her out to be.
I have serious issues with Perry’s mandate. I believe the government has the right to interfere in parenting only in certain egregious cases of abuse. Being a libertarian-minded parent myself I have had my share of run-ins with ideologues who think they know better than I do what is best for my child. It is an issue that resonates in my family since my parents fought an effort in the 1950’s to force my brother to have an experimental open-heart surgery that most likely would have killed him. My father risked going to jail rather than see his son experimented on, and it was only after my brother’s pediatrician intervened on my father’s behalf that the state backed down.
So Perry’s open for some serious criticism on the mandate issue. Since the HPV virus is only sexually transmitted it’s not like he had to mandate the vaccine in order to prevent the disease easily spreading like measles or meningitis.
But what Bachmann has done is conflated the mandate issue with the vaccination issue – and here she has gone off the rails. There is no scientific evidence that the vaccine is dangerous. All vaccines have side effects and some may even cause deaths in a tiny fraction of recipients, but that risk is overwhelmed by the lives they have saved and the cases of diseases they have prevented.
I am a climate change skeptic because consensus shouldn’t mean squat in science and the data isn’t there to support the AGW theory. But I am at heart a scientist and the evidence that vaccines save lives is overwhelming. Anyone who doubts their power should visit the 3rd World and see children dying from diphtheria and mumps as I have; it’s not pretty and it’s completely preventable. Bachmann needs to walk back her statements on this controversy or risk losing the support of people like me who are Republicans AND scientifically-minded. The GOP shouldn’t become the party of ignorance, but it is well on its way if Bachmann continues this line of attack.