NEW YORK — Health experts have expressed fear that Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's comments about the human papillomavirus vaccine could set back progress in vaccinations, according to published reports.
The New York Times quoted experts as saying that vaccination rates often drop when public figures raise alarms about vaccines, including one who said it could set back efforts to vaccinate against human papillomavirus — a sexually transmitted infection that causes genital warts and several cancers in men and women — by three years.
Bachmann was widely ridiculed by figures on the left and the right, and was condemned by medical experts, for calling Merck & Co.'s Gardasil vaccine "dangerous," citing the claims of a mother who purportedly told her that it caused her daughter to develop mental retardation, but without providing scientific evidence.
Merck and the American Academy of Pediatrics quickly responded, saying clinical trial data showed the vaccine is safe and effective. Bachmann had been seeking to score political points against fellow Republican candidate Rick Perry, who as governor of Texas signed an executive order in 2007 mandating that girls receive the vaccine in the sixth grade.
Bachmann's comments came in the wake of a climate of public apprehension over vaccines that had only recently abated after a 1998 study published in The Lancet purporting to show a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism proved to be fraudulent.