Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry spar over mandated shots in a GOP presidential debate
Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, two presidential candidates who sparred over the issue of Texas vaccinations, may be floundering in the polls, but the topic of Merck’s controversial Gardasil is heating up – with an Austrian physician who studied the drug saying it is not only dangerous, but useless in reducing cervical cancer, the stated reason it would have been administered to young girls under an executive order from Gov. Perry.
Dr. Christian Fiala, who successfully fought the use of the drug in Austria, told WND this week “there is no proof of a causal relationship of HPV and cervical cancer (correlation is not necessarily causation) and there is no evidence that HPV vaccine reduces the overall number of cervical cancer (cases).”
In an email, Fiala called the HPV vaccination plan “a money-making machine without any benefit for patients. But some inherent risks.”
Officials report that there have been 17,500 or more “adverse” incident reports that have been made over the last few years because of the use of the vaccination.
Fiala, who fought the idea of vaccination with Gardasil as part of a national health standard in Austria, says he was targeted by the vaccine developers for his findings.
“The doctors involved in vaccine development submitted an official complaint … accusing me of doing harm to the image of doctors,” Fiala said. “The investigation did not go far, because I could show that I fully respect evidence based on medicine. Therefore, the investigation was closed. But it could have cost me the right to [practice] medicine. It was meant as a threat.”
He said that while he was arguing over the application of the medicine, an 18-year-girl was found dead in her bed.
“She had been absolutely healthy before her death, except some central nervous symptoms in the few days prior to her death. … This happened three weeks post-HPV vaccination,” he said.
Then, another girl, 16, was hospitalized with similar symptoms and was in intensive care for a week before she started recovering.
“For obvious reasons this slowed down the enthusiasm for the vaccine in Austria,” he said.
As a result, the product is not greatly promoted in his country, “and it is used infrequently.”
Dr. Jane Orient of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons also told WND that she battled Perry’s plan in 2007 and 2008 to inoculated school girls.
“Our position was that this was a violation of parental rights and patients’ rights, to mandate a vaccine without a really good public health reason,” she said.
She pointed out that the HPV virus is spread only by sexual contact and not in routine school situations. And she said there were a lot of questions about the brand new drug, among them the direct link between the HPV vaccine and any side effects.
“It tends to worry me quite a lot if I give a shot and [a patient] drops dead,” she said.
“It should be that the patient is the one to make the determination [to get vaccinated]; the state should not be demanding that little girls be subjected to this.”
She told WND that it was good for the issue to be raised at the level of a presidential race, because the public needs to debate and decide such issues.
When Bachmann raised the issue, the traditional media attacked her for asserting that the vaccine could be dangerous and should not be imposed by government.
The Bachmann attack “may be hurting her considerably more than him,” stated the International Business Times, citing her narrative about a mother who complained the treatment had injured her daughter. “Bachmann did not offer any scientific evidence to suggest there is actually a viable link between Gardasil and mental retardation.”
The report said: “Of the 35 million doses of Gardasil distributed in the U.S., only about 0.05 percent of individuals who have been vaccinated have reported some kind of side effect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental retardation was not one of them.”
The Washington Post joined the criticism, saying, “Her offense quickly turned to defense when her comments were criticized by an extremely long list of groups and people, including Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Post editorial board, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.
“In the wake of Bachmann’s comments,” the report continued, “there doesn’t seem to be a rush of stories questioning the safety of Gardasil. There appears to be only one such story: a WISH-TV Indianapolis report about Zeda Pingel, whose mother claims she’s suffered health problems after being vaccinated.”
The Student Life publication at Washington University accused Bachmann of making verbal gaffes.
“The virus itself is the most common sexually transmitted infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 50 percent of sexually active American adults will contract HPV during their lifetimes. HPV is a very real problem, and this vaccine can help prevent its spread.
“With women comprising half our population, that this claim, which can do nothing but hurt women’s health, was made is concerning,” the publication said.
Some 17,500 individuals have suffered side effects such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Bell’s Palsy and even death.
In the debate, Bachmann said Perry’s act was “a violation of liberty interests.”
“We cannot forget in the midst of this executive order, there was a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate,” she continued. “Is it about life or about millions of dollars for a drug company?”
Perry said the donation from the vaccine maker, Merck, was only $5,000, and he was insulted if Bachmann was suggesting he could be “bought for $5,000.”
“I’m offended for all the little girls who didn’t have a choice. That’s what I’m offended for,” she responded.
Neither the Bachmann nor the Perry campaigns returned WND requests for comment.
But critics of Perry point out that the vaccine is supposed to address a disease only transmitted by sexual activity, and the issue isn’t the mundane, clinical argument that Gardasil supporters portray.
“What they are not telling you is that thousands of girls are having adverse reactions to the HPV vaccines, some have even died – at last count, at least 103 lives have been lost. We have got to do something about this. These girls need our help! These girls are having reactions such as; seizures, strokes, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headaches, stomach pains, vomiting, muscle pain and weakness, joint pain, auto-immune problems, chest pains, hair loss, appetite loss, personality changes, insomnia, hand/leg tremors, arm/leg weakness, shortness of breath, heart problems, paralysis, itching, rashes, swelling, aching muscles, pelvic pain, nerve pain, menstrual cycle changes, fainting, swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, nausea, temporary vision/hearing loss just to name some of them!”
Actually, the government itself has documented deaths from reactions to the vaccine, although the total doesn’t match the blog’s claim of fatalities.
Anecdotally, the government’s documents confirm:
- The case of a 19-year-old woman who was given Gardasil and reported, “Headache, nausea, dizziness, chilling, tiredness, shortness of breath, complained of chest pain, severe cramps.” She died of “acute cardiac arrhythmia.”
- A 13-year-old girl was vaccinated and, 10 days later, developed fever. According to federal reports she “did not recover and was admitted to the hospital. … She developed dyspnoea and went into a coma … she expired [that day].”
- And a 10-year-old developed “progressive loss of strength in lower and upper extremities almost totally … nerve conduction studies [showed Guillain-Barre syndrome].” The case was considered “immediately life-threatening.”
Those reports have been monitored over the years by Judicial Watch, a Washington watchdog corruption fighter, since the drug’s approval by the Food and Drug Administration
“To say Gardasil has a suspect safety record is a big understatement. These reports are troubling and show that the FDA and other public-health authorities may be asleep at the switch,” Tom Fitton, president of the organization, told WND when the death and injury reports were arriving.
Judicial Watch launched a comprehensive investigation of Gardasil’s safety record in 2008 after the drug’s manufacturer, Merck & Co., began a major effort to lobby in state legislatures to impose requirements that girls be given their product.
It was in 2008 when Judicial Watch obtained documents from the FDA documenting “anaphylactic shock,” “foaming at mouth,” “grand mal convulsion,” “coma” and “now paralyzed” descriptions of the complications from Gardasil. The company wanted it to be mandatory for all schoolgirls.
The federal reports document some three dozen deaths in the United States, although an activist organization claims there have been almost 70 deaths, nearly 800 “serious” reactions and thousands of minor reactions.
Merck spokeswoman Jennifer Allen Woodruff told WND that the drug addresses a medical need, that of reducing the rates of HPV.
She said it has been approved widely around the world, with 120 countries having examined and approved its use.
“Nothing is more important to Merck than the safety of our vaccines and those who use them,” she said. “The facts about Gardasil are clear and its efficacy and safety … were established.”
She declined to say that Merck had not lobbied state lawmakers for laws that would force the vaccine on children and families, instead offering that the company focused on lobbying efforts regarding the “potential school requirements” in some states.
She said the company’s goal was simply to provide information to those who made such decisions.
However, the vaccine has had a few bumps. Agence France-Presse reported in 2009 that Spanish authorities withdrew tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine when two teen girls were hospitalized.
In the United Kingdom, an investigation was launched after two young girls died following their injections of the drug.
And the Daily News and Analysis from India said the Indian Council of Medical Research suspended a cervical cancer control vaccination program for girls after four deaths and complications for 120 more.