Friday 16 September 2011

She's here to help: Michele Bachmann, at your cervix

Here's the premise for this article. Medical science backed up by statistical evidence shows that by taking the HPV vaccine, you can reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer by thousands. Yes, thousands. Then a politician vying for public office stands up and recounts a supposed personal experience which makes her completely doubt the safety of the vaccine. The politician is not a medical doctor. Based on anecdotal information... no, based on a single anecdote, the politician who is in a position to influence millions suggests that people should not take the vaccine.

The Story
During the Republican presidential debates, Representative Michele Bachmann took on Governor Rick Perry over an order he had issued which required Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus, the human papilloma virus (HPV). That unto itself was considered by pundits, journalists and ethics watchdogs as an issue worthy of discussion. Should the government have the right to force its citizens to take the vaccine?

Unfortunately, Ms. Bachmann didn't stop there. She recounts the situation where after one of the debates, she meets a "tearful" woman who claims her daughter developed mental retardation after being vaccinated against HPV. Based on this one encounter, Bachmann has taken to telling the media that the vaccine is possibly linked to mental retardation. The truth is anything but.

The Numbers
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2007 (the most recent numbers), 12,280 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,021 women in the United States died from cervical cancer.

The CDC has studied and continues to study the safety of the vaccines. They admit right up front that their reporting of adverse effects cannot any way prove a causal association between the vaccines and the adverse effect. The effect happens sometime after the vaccination which may mean it's the vaccination but could be merely coincidental. Nevertheless, nowhere and I mean nowhere in the published documentation is there any, yes, any mention of mental retardation.

Gardasil seems to be the most administered vaccine. It was approved by the FDA on June 8, 2006 and as of June 22, 2011, 35 million doses were distributed in the U.S. and the CDC received 18,727 reports of adverse events. That is five one hundredths of one percent, 0.05%. Out of those eighteen thousand, 92% were considered not serious while only 8% were serious. That means that 1,498 cases out of thirty-five million were serious or 0.004%, four one thousandths of a percent. As of June 22, 2011, there have been 68 reports of death, 32 confirmed and 36 unconfirmed. In the 32 confirmed cases there is nothing to suggest the death was caused by the vaccine. Even if one takes the number 68, out of 35 million that represents 0.0002%. That represents 68 deaths in the five years the drug has been on the market or, on average, 13.6 deaths per year.

In looking at how low the percentage is from a statistical point of view, somebody is going to counter with the obvious argument that any one of us would be very concerned if we were part of those 68 cases.

In comparison to 13.6 deaths possibly attributable to an HPV vaccine (this has not been proven), there are 62 deaths each year due to lightning, yes, lightning. (Infoplease). Over thirty thousand (30,000!!!) die each year in traffic accidents. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) 18,000 people die each year from AIDS. (Center for Disease Control) Over 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. (Center for Disease Control)

As an aside, I must make note that we all accept our government as having the right to mandate certain things in our lives which contribute to the "greater good". Seat belts in cars are mandatory. Certain drugs are controlled substances and you must have a doctor's prescription to get them. Does this vaccine fall into the same category? Michele Bachmann criticized Rick Perry for mandating that girls get vaccinated but at what point should a government, our government, intervene for our own good? There are a number of stories where a Jehovah's Witness has refused a blood transfusion for their child only to have the courts step in and force the transfusion to take place. And as an extreme case, suicide is illegal.

Does government intervention in our lives still feel wrong? Let's add some numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: In 2007, an estimated 15,147 lives were saved by seat belts, and 2,788 lives were saved by air bags. If seat belt use increased to 100 percent, then an additional 5,024 lives would have been saved (Starnes, 2008).

Uploaded by brainnumbification on Sep 15, 2011
Michele Bachmann claims HPV vaccine made woman's daughter mentally retarded

Final Word
I would propose that said politician herself is mentally retarded. Based on past experience which has proven her to open her mouth without the slightest regard to fact checking or any form of logical deduction, I would also submit the likelihood that this person is suffering from some form of tourettes.

I am livid. Michele Bachmann is a f**kin' idiot. This is most egregious example of irresponsibility; she just opens her mouth and says whatever comes to mind without the slightest regard for research, statistics or the truth. This woman doesn't deserve to hold public office.

The plural of anecdote is not data.
- various

Facts are not decided by how many people believe them. Truth is not determined by how loudly it is shouted.
- sign at the Rally to Restore Sanity, October 30, 2010, Washington DC

I am going to keep repeating that until I'm blue in the face. People in general and politicians specifically should not, cannot, must not, be making decisions based on "I heard somebody say..." Anecdotal evidence is not something upon which we should base our decisions. We need a more rigorous methodology for examining an issue so as to arrive at the best assessment. If Michele Bachmann wants to do something which affects her and only her, be my guest, it's her life. But when she as a presidential candidate advocates a course of action which could potentially affect the decisions made by millions of people, I expect her to be more circumspect in assessing the pros and cons not just for herself but for millions of people. Expect it? No, I demand it!

This isn't a blunder. This isn't a faux pas which can be assessed in terms of how the latest polling numbers are going to be affected. No, this is a wake-up call, a flashing red light, a warning siren that Michele Bachmann is not just incapable of being president of the United States, she is a danger to the country and more than likely to herself. To hear this woman criticize Obama and his administration for anything she possibly perceives as "an error" is the ultimate in irony considering the litany of her pronouncements which clearly indicate gross incompetency, a total lack of facts and an incapability of formulating a logical thought. This woman should have never been allowed into the GOP race. If anything, her presence is a clear indication that the Republican Party is becoming or has already become a laughing stock of American politics. God only knows what the rest of the world thinks of the U.S. This has gotten so stupid, I don't know why we are even talking about this with any degree of seriousness, never mind talking about it at all.


Wikipedia: Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is malignant neoplasm of the cervix uteri or cervical area. One of the most common symptoms is abnormal vaginal bleeding, but in some cases there may be no obvious symptoms until the cancer is in its advanced stages. Treatment consists of surgery (including local excision) in early stages and chemotherapy and radiotherapy in advanced stages of the disease.

Wikipedia: HPV vaccine
The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection with certain species of human papillomavirus associated with the development of cervical cancer, genital warts, and some less common cancers. Two HPV vaccines are currently on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix.

Wikipedia: Gardasil
Gardasil (Merck & Co.), also known as Gardisil or Silgard, is a vaccine approved June 8, 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the prevention of certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause an estimated 70% of cervical cancers, and are responsible for most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancer cases. HPV types 6 and 11 cause an estimated 90% of genital warts cases.

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Reports of Health Concerns Following HPV Vaccination
The adverse event may be coincidental or it may have been caused by vaccination, however we cannot make any conclusions that the events reported to VAERS were caused by the vaccine.

The New York Times - Sep 15/2011
With Stakes for Bachmann Higher Now, Her Words Get in the Way by Trip Gabriel
Jim Dyke, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee unaffiliated with any candidate, said: “This is the nail in the coffin in her campaign. Because you can be a cable television darling by saying provocative things, but you can’t be president of the United States.”

Reuters - Sep 15/2011
Analysis: Bachmann HPV vaccine comments toxic: doctors By Julie Steenhuysen
No matter how much the U.S. medical community challenges the suggestion by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) is dangerous, doctors fear the damage has already been done.

Respectful Insolence - Sep 14/2011
Michelle Bachmann's anti-vaccine statements cross the political pseudoscience divide
Chris Mooney, for all that some atheists vilify him, seems eerily prescient in his book from six years ago The Republican War on Science. Mooney's only mistake? He didn't realize at the time just how far into anti-science positions the Republican Party would ultimately dive. Who would have thought that the Bush Administration would seem almost rational by comparison with today's crop of Republican candidates for president?

my blog: Michele Bachmann: the next president of the WTH!?!
I read the news articles; I watch the video clips and I realize I don't have to say anything. Michele Bachmann speaks for herself. I used to think Sarah Palin was a one off, a unique event on the American political landscape. I now know Sarah has a twin. Both of them look great; they have a certain presence and somewhere there is the hope this is the person from whom one could expect big things. Then they open their mouths.

my blog: Michele Bachmann, a Corn Dog and the Oral Office
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll with 28.6%. While various news analysts and Ms. Bachmann herself have supposedly called this an important win or a solid or resounding victory, an article in the Huffington Post by Richard Greener points out something so obvious, so overwhelming obvious, it is surprising at how these people could be so blind. 71.4% of the voters did not pick Michele Bachmann. At a GOP-sponsored affair where the most fervent supporters of the Iowa Republican Party come together and nearly three-quarters of those people do not vote for Bachmann, how can anyone, media or Bachmann herself, say that this in any way resembles a victory?

my blog: Michele Bachmann and the far, far, far, far, far right
Ryan Lizza wrote of Bachmann: In the spring of 2009, during what appeared to be the beginnings of a swine-flu epidemic, Bachmann said, “I find it interesting that it was back in the nineteen-seventies that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat President, Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama—I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.” (New Yorker, Aug 14/2011: Leap of Faith)


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