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Needle with bloodThis isn’t about Republicans and Democrats This isn’t about the vaccinations and vaccine safety. And this isn’t about whether or not I think it is okay for a state to mandate vaccinations. This is about the impact politics — specifically political sound bytes of reckless rhetoric — can have on the decision making public.

Last month, Michele Bachmann in an interview on the Today Show (here on YouTube — jump to the 2 minute mark) responded to a question about Rick Perry’s HPV vaccination program in Texas (using Gardasil) with a story about a woman that came up to her after one of the debates and said, “her little daughter took that uh, vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side effects.”

This is terrifying. The statement was made to attack a political position and to this point has been debunked and the campaign cannot even produce the woman that said it. There were plenty of tactics available for making her point, but Congresswoman Bachmann took a dangerous approach. My problem is that Congresswoman Bachmann is supposed to be a leader, one to follow as part of the United States Congress, and with a simple statement has most likely set vaccinations back a decade. On top of this, how can I ever have my son look up to members of Congress as role models when it is becoming ever clearer they will literally say anything to get ahead, regardless of the impact.

The optimist in me has faith in my fellow Americans that they will not make such an important decision — whether or not to vaccinate their child — based on unsupported sound bytes. The realist in me says there are a lot of people who will be swayed not to vaccinate based on this statement. The pessimist says there will be a lot of people that will blindly follow this byte without so much as a casual glance at scientific data and not only ignore the HPV vaccinations, but all vaccinations — never fully understanding the consequences.

In other words, this single comment could cause a s significant volume of children not to get the HPV vaccination (and many other vaccinations) and that this will ultimately lead to their untimely death. This seems like a stretch even in my mind, but it is the reality of the situation.

My son is vaccinated. We did our research and yes, there are potential side effects, but these side effects are not like those that you find in fringe reports and sound bytes (guaranteed retardation and autism). The side effects range from nothing to life-threatening, which is an obvious risk — and if my child was the one-in-a-million case, I would be devastated beyond words. However, the risks without the vaccine are even greater.

While I try to teach my son accountability for his actions, I can use Congress as an example — unfortunately of what not to do. I will also teach him to make sure he thinks for himself, using the best tools at his disposal.

More information and Resources:
CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaccines/CC00014
KidsHealth (from Nemours): http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/immunizations/vaccine.html
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP): http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/home.html

*Blog image courtesy of gameanna

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