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September 13, 2011 11:25 AM The importance of the HPV vaccine in the GOP

By Steve Benen

Social conservatives have long been opposed to initiatives to combat the human papillomavirus (HPV), which increases a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. Merck developed a vaccine that immunizes against HPV infection, and it was approved by the FDA, which led the religious right to fight for restrictions. As the Family Research Council said a while back, the vaccine “could be potentially harmful” to women “because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”

Let that one roll around in your brain for a moment.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), at least in 2007, knew better. Indeed, the governor was refreshingly sensible on the matter: “Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than the hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use,” Perry said at the time. “If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it, claiming it would encourage smoking?”

Now that Perry is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he’s backed away from his sensible stand. But that’s not quite good enough for Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum who, much to Mitt Romney’s delight, hammered Perry on this in last night’s debate. Indeed, Bachmann even accused the Texas governor of possible corruption.

BACHMANN: I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can’t deny that…. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for a drug company, because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

BLITZER: All right. I’ll let Senator Santorum hold off for a second. You’ve got to respond to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.

He certainly didn’t mean it this way, but the answer made it seem as if Perry could be bought, if only the payoff was much greater.

Regardless, this is quickly becoming one of the key issues in the Republican race. Right-wing activists are taking it seriously, and Bachmann even claimed, falsely, in an interview after the debate that the HPV vaccine can lead to mental retardation in girls. There’s no evidence to support this — there’s generally no evidence to support any of Bachmann’s claims — but it will apparently be another far-right area of concern, and an issue for Perry to deal with.

So long as conservatives believe the appropriate penalty for sexual activity is cervical cancer, this will likely remain an important part of the campaign.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Homer on September 13, 2011 11:36 AM:

    "Let that one roll around in your brain for a moment."

    Love it.

  • c u n d gulag on September 13, 2011 11:36 AM:

    Cronyism is never a problem for Republicans - depending on the crony, of course.

    Now, if it was George Soros who sold Texas the vaccine and profited from it, and Michael Moore made a film of the program, "Rich and Me," or "Vaccine - HPV," then the poo-poo would hit the ventilator.
    ____________________________________________

    Also, too - maybe that vaccine's been around a lot longer than we think, or have been told.

    Michelle Bachmann may know from personal experience about it causing mental retardation.

    My guess is that she didn't get the placebo shot.

  • jpd on September 13, 2011 11:38 AM:

    its not that clear. my liberal wife also doesn't like the
    forced vaccination.
    1.) no long term studies yet,
    2.) supplied by Merk, one of Perry's backers
    3.) Merk lobbyist is one of Perry's top staffers
    4.) enforced unilaterally by governer , not by legistature

  • hell's littlest angel on September 13, 2011 11:39 AM:

    As far as I know, the only thing that can make a 12-year old girl of normal intelligence become mentally retarded is her thirteenth birthday.

  • walt on September 13, 2011 11:42 AM:

    If you were to ask the average Tea Party dim bulb what HPV vaccine is, they would look at you like you're one them smarty-pants liberals trying to trick them. In truth, this is one of those very marginal issues that right-wing activists push against liberals. Against Perry, it will have limited value unless the Pavlovian overclass (Rush, Sean, Bill, Laura, etc) decide to take him down. My hunch is that they won't.

  • Dex on September 13, 2011 11:44 AM:

    To borrow something from the 1960's: 'Republican candidates, The Ugly Americans.

  • Grumpy on September 13, 2011 11:48 AM:

    ...the answer made it seem as if Perry could be bought, if only the payoff was much greater.

    We've established what kind of politician you are; now we're merely haggling over the price.

    LOL, hla.

  • gifgrrl on September 13, 2011 11:51 AM:

    I remember back in the early days of the AIDS crisis, the Catholic Church came out absolutely opposed to the use of condoms to prevent contraction of AIDS. Their reasoning was similarly insane - though using condoms might prevent people from dying, it might also prevent conception, and somehow, nothing is more important than making sure conception happens. Nothing. Even keeping existing people alive.

    Same here. 'Tis better to let everyone contract cervical cancer than acknowledge that teenagers might have sex. You betcha.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on September 13, 2011 11:53 AM:

    And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.

    Well, what is the going price then?

    "Wi+Mo ingsalra" INDEED!
    I like "protein toptrys" if I stand on my head to decipher it

  • Eeyore on September 13, 2011 11:58 AM:

    So some teenage girl is going to make the decision about when/where/how to have her first sexual experience based on the fact that she got the HPV vaccine?

    That's about as stoopid as the argument that allowing same-sex marriage will destroy marriage because people will now choose to become gay.

  • Stuart Shiffman on September 13, 2011 11:58 AM:

    I am tired of allegations that politicians can be bought for $5,000. They cannot be bought for that amount. But they can be rented!

  • gandalf on September 13, 2011 12:03 PM:

    GOP the party of death

  • c u n d gulag on September 13, 2011 12:05 PM:

    Why is that I feel that the person who'll get the Republican nomination is the first one who in a debate will get up and say:

    'I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die...'

  • sh on September 13, 2011 12:06 PM:

    http://www.medalerts.org/
    Type in any vaccine and look at the adverse reactions - these are just what gets reported.
    I am a liberal but agree with jpd's wife - forced vaccination - any vaccination is wrong - my body my children's body....not the gov'ts decision to make. Liberals need to face the facts that when companies have no incentive to make a safe product they likely will not. Now that vaccine companies are exempt from any lawsuits take a look out how many they are producing. Compare the vaccination schedule from the early 80's to the one now and look at what a big business it is with no proof that they work. Search that database Steve - it will be an eye opener. Sadly many liberals with vaccine injured children are looking at the Republicans to help them because they can not get a liberal to even entertain the idea that that vaccines can be unsafe and maybe do not even work.

  • T2 on September 13, 2011 12:16 PM:

    many on the Left were also enraged by Perry's order to inoculate young girls. It wasn't just the Crazy Right. The outcry was so loud on all fronts that eventually Perry just let it die.
    But that's the thing with Perry....He wants forced inoculations, forced sonograms and then he turns around and gives the "get the Government out of our lives" speeches. Hypocrite=Perry.

  • jpeckjr on September 13, 2011 12:25 PM:

    I'm a liberal and I, too, have mixed feelings about Perry's actions regarding the HPV vaccine. I do not think it was because of Merck's contributions. The problem, I think, lies with using the executive order. Even he admits he should have gone through the legislature instead.

    My mixed feeling are not about whether or not vaccines are a good idea, or whether or not they work. "My body, my children's body" may apply with HPV, but with measles or polio, your failure to get a vaccination might make me or my child ill. Please don't try to tell me the polio vaccince doesn't work.

  • jpeckjr on September 13, 2011 12:27 PM:

    Another thought: I wonder if someone close to Perry -- a relative or family friend -- is dealing with HPV or cervical cancer.

  • Josef K on September 13, 2011 12:35 PM:

    As the Family Research Council said a while back, the vaccine “could be potentially harmful” to women “because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”

    Who the hell uses the word 'license' in this context in this day and age? They'll be insisting we call girls 'maidens' next.

  • DAY on September 13, 2011 12:57 PM:

    Perry wants to vaccinate your 12 year old child.
    So she gets the vaccine, then does "IT" with the current boyfriend. And discovers that men will give you money to do "IT". One of them gets rough, and she gets a pimp. Pretty soon, your daughter is a sex save, making gang bang movies with black men.
    Save us, Ms. Bachmann!

  • Josef K on September 13, 2011 1:12 PM:

    From DAY at 12:57pm:

    Perry wants to vaccinate your 12 year old child.

    The sad thing is, DAY's entire scenario is probably what's bouncing around inside conservatives' heads on this issue. Its silly beyond words, and doesn't say much for their own parenting skills, but since when has rationality been in play here?

  • swh on September 13, 2011 1:18 PM:

    If one believes vaccines work then whether or not I get a vaccination should not make you ill. If I get measles and you have the vaccination and it works then you shouldn't get sick. This so called herd immunity has never made sense to me. BTW I am not anti- vaccine - I am safe vaccine - I believe there may be some that work but, we can not know which ones and even those that do work may still be unsafe for some people but the gov't refuses to do this research.For example, if someone in my family gets cut then sure we will get the tetanus vaccine but, why get this vaccine for no good reason when it can be given after that fact and tetanus is very rare.Better public sanitation may have more to do with disease eradication that vaccines - even Bill Gates is realizing he needs to put more money into those types of efforts in third world countries. The gov't keeps insisting that the science proves vaccines are safe - there is no science proving this and one only has to search the database I posted earlier to realize that a one size fits all vaccination policy much less a forced vaccination policy is not right medically or morally.

  • thebewilderness on September 13, 2011 1:27 PM:

    Men and boys carry the disease, but oddly enough they are not being vaccinated or tested or cautioned to keep their penis in their pants. Funny how that works.
    The problem with Perry forcing law for Merk is that there was another vaccine with less side effects so they needed to get the law passed quick before the competition made it to the market. So he pushed a law mandating use of a riskier vaccine.

  • zandru on September 13, 2011 1:40 PM:

    Some Additional Details

    The cronyism charge sticks, although I agree that it's not somethings Republicans would care about.

    The vaccine's effectiveness and cost are another thing. It protects against just a few of the HPV virus strains that are out there. It costs out the wazoo (over $200) which wasn't picked up by insurance companies back when "Big Swingin' Dick" Perry mandated it. There was no provision for helping Tejano parents who couldn't afford it. And the vaccine requires a series of three, carefully timed shots over the course of several months, biasing its usage against people with less-settled lives.

    In short, even liberals and scientists had some problems with Perry's actions.

  • SYSPROG on September 13, 2011 1:59 PM:

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? The GOP has spent the last decade up a woman's crotch. The party of small government? Oh yeah except where those pesky women are concerned. THEN by GOD, we are going to 'punish' them if they step out of line which is code for doing anything OTHER than submitting to their husbands. The vaccine is good. Screw those hypocritical loudmouths who would be breaking their f'ing legs to get it if one of THEIR daughters were sexually active. Where Perry screwed the pooch, was demanding that all young girls had to HAVE it...or else.

  • rikyrah on September 13, 2011 2:33 PM:

    I still believe you are wrong. Crazy azz Bachmann is right in this respect - this is ALL about Perry and corruption. you HONESTLY believe he gave a shyt about those girls?

    GMAFB

    it was ALL about the money for the drug company

  • H-Bob on September 13, 2011 2:38 PM:

    Contrary to Bachmann's statement, the HPV vaccine is given after age 10, while autism or mental retardation manifests before a child's 5th birthday. She is applying the disproven claims about childhood vaccinations to the HPV vaccine.

    shw, the "so called herd immunity" does work for particular types of diseases. The tetanus scenario doesn't apply for all diseases.

  • Fall Line on September 13, 2011 2:40 PM:

    I am planning to have my daughter vaccinated for HPV, and my son as well (per the recommendation of my pediatrician), but this whole thing makes me suspect that Perry is lying about either 1) the influence of Merck contributions in his policy making, or 2) his opinion on the efficacy of his state's abstinence only program.

  • Astrogeek on September 13, 2011 3:53 PM:

    "...one only has to search the database I posted..." by swh

    By reading the documentation of the real CDC website, the VAERS system you are linking to is a voluntary collection of adverse reaction reports that are not verified by medical professionals and there is no direct evidence that the adverse reactions are CAUSED by the vaccines in question.

    "Men and boys carry the disease, but oddly enough they are not being vaccinated or tested or cautioned to keep their penis in their pants." by thebewilderness

    In fact, the HPV vaccine Gardasil is safe and effective for males 9 thru 26. But studies have shown that the most effective way to cut down on HPV-caused cases of cervical cancer is to focus on female vaccination. Nothing mysterious or misogynistic about it.

  • chrenson on September 13, 2011 5:36 PM:

    So that's what made Bachmann crazy.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on September 13, 2011 5:40 PM:

    Please don't try to tell me the polio vaccince doesn't work. - jpeckjr @ 12:25

    Far be it from me to talk anybody into anything. Just a night or two ago I stumbled on a Free-to-air program on the dish...it was on the history of the vaccination programs and it was just stunning. It was probably an hour long and detailed all the aspects of these programs. The committee that oversees the needs, dosing non-threatened populations, the money, the instant career ending of doctors that raised concerns that were happening right in front of their eyes, side effects, and on and on and on. The clinchers were the brave biggies in the field saying the vaccines being worse than the disease. I think Polio was the example as being developed so late on the scene as to be of no value. If I can figure out which channel I saw it on, I'll give a link. There was a book already published that contains some of the info.

    I would modify what rikyrah @ 14:33 wrote: it was ALL about the money for the drug company to say it is sold on the public because there is no recourse or penalty to the drug companies. People die BECAUSE of these unproven vaccines.

  • Victoria20110 on September 13, 2011 5:42 PM:

    So close to an intelligent column...and yet so far.

    "So long as conservatives believe the appropriate penalty for sexual activity is cervical cancer, this will likely remain an important part of the campaign."

    Is that sort of like saying that all liberals are pro-abortion? Not pro-choice...pro-abortion.

    Sweeping, all encompassing statements are a fantastic way to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maybe, just maybe, that some conservatives are concerned about any lawmaker having the ability to make sweeping mandates (in this case an Executive Order) about issues that they consider to be fundamentally personal choices. Regardless of the party - tea or otherwise.

  • sh on September 13, 2011 6:00 PM:

    The science I repeat is not there as to whether or not any vaccines are safe and effective. I want a safe & effective vaccination program and as long as huge sums of money are involved - revolving doors between gov't and the vaccine companies exists & a Supreme Court that shields the vaccine companies from all liability we will not have a safe & effective program.
    This report explores the issue:
    http://www.ebcala.org/areas-of-law/vaccine-law/watch-hdnet-world-report-vaccines-autism-mixed-signals
    HDNet World Report,” the Emmy Award-winning national news program, takes an in-depth look at the mixed signals sent by the U.S. Government to families who believe that their children developed autism as a result of vaccinations gone bad.
    Public health officials in the U.S. have consistently denied that there is any link between childhood vaccines and autism; however, some families have actually received money from the government to fund long term care for their autistic children

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on September 13, 2011 7:58 PM:

    I found the link from the Galaxy 19 broadcast. This is the author: Dr. Sherri Tenpenny
    http://drtenpenny.com/

  • Anonymous on September 13, 2011 10:01 PM:

    Victoria, you said "Maybe, just maybe, that some conservatives are concerned about any lawmaker having the ability to make sweeping mandates (in this case an Executive Order) about issues that they consider to be fundamentally personal choices. "

    But there was an opt-out provision allowing people to exercise "personal choice." So maybe, just maybe, those conservatives don't know what they're talking about.

  • steve on September 14, 2011 11:54 AM:

    UMMMM, well, if smoking didn't cause cancer, yes, more people would smoke..of course. if heroin wasn't addictive, more people would enjoy how good it feels. UMMMM...left, right, public discourse is dumb.

  • g on September 14, 2011 3:41 PM:

    As far as I know, the only thing that can make a 12-year old girl of normal intelligence become mentally retarded is her thirteenth birthday

    Yes, but it magically clear up the first Christmas they come hoome from college! Trust me, I know!

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