"I'm a mom. And I'm a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat-out wrong," Bachmann said during the debate in Tampa by the Republican candidates for president. "That should never be done. It's a violation of a liberty interest."
Bachmann also raises myths about the side effects of vaccines.
"There's a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences," she told Fox News after the debate.
It's unlikely that a 12-year-old girl would suddenly come down with a developmental disability. It is possible that the mother misspoke and meant brain damage, but even that is highly unlikely, doctors agree.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has battled against one vaccine accusation after another. One was that measles vaccines directly cause autism by somehow leaking through the gut. Then there was the idea that whooping-cough vaccines can cause brain damage. When these fears were debunked, the vaccine-doubter community seized upon the idea that a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal was causing the brain damage.
That last one was harder to fight, and some of the most convincing material presented to news media and members of Congress involved video of brain cells dying when mercury was poured on them. Medical experts struggled to explain to a lay audience that the mercury-based compound used in the preservative affected the body differently, but eventually gave up and removed it from all childhood vaccines by 2001 to restore faith in vaccine safety.
The Institute of Medicine, an independent body that studies big health questions, appointed several panels of experts to examine the matter, and over 15 years, the panels have issued ever-stronger reports affirming the safety of vaccines. The latest came just last month. After looking at 1,000 different medical studies, the institute declared that vaccines rarely cause medical problems.
None of these reports seemed to mollify the conspiracy theorists, who simply change their arguments to support the idea that the government and the big pharmaceutical companies are colluding to make money and hurt children.
CDC had no comment on Bachmann's remarks, and it's no wonder it doesn't want to touch this one--CDC officials have been vilified by some of the most hard-core vaccine doubters, who say that the public health agency is in the pockets of the drug makers. That's also what Bachmann says about her rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
This one will be harder to fight. Medical journals cannot refute arguments that cash may have influenced a politician's decision. Perry has received more than $28,000 from HPV vaccine maker Merck since 2000, National Journal has confirmed.