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Bachmann Links Vaccine to “Mental Retardation”



By Katie Kather

If you turned on the TV or radio this week, chances are you heard about Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s latest gaffe.

In case you haven’t, she linked a vaccine for human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, to mental retardation.

You don’t have to be politically opposed to Bachmann or know much about medicine to realize that linking an HPV vaccine to mental retardation is flawed for the following reasons.

1. Mental retardation, as defined by dictionary.com, is a developmental disorder characterized by a subnormal ability to learn and a substantially low IQ.  Moreover, the correct term for this disorder, according to The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities is “intellectual disability.”  Simply put, we don’t say “retarded” anymore.

2. Gardasil, the HPV vaccine in question, is licensed for females ages 9-26.  I am not a medical doctor, but the last time I checked, people between the ages of 9 and 26 do not suddenly wake up with a developmental disorder.  Gardasil certainly has real side effects, the most serious of which include blood clots and death, but “retardation” is not one of them.

3. Bachmann’s defense is that she was just repeating what she was told.  If that were a valid excuse, there would be utter chaos in our society.  There would be no accountability for any spoken word.  Aren’t we all just repeating things that we have been told at some point?  Somebody as influential as a presidential candidate should not be spewing repeated stories, whether or not they are true.

The HPV vaccine has been a hot topic for the recent GOP debates since Texas governor, Rick Perry, mandated all middle-school girls in his state receive the vaccination.

Perry’s decision is controversial on many levels which would require a separate opinion piece, but the point of this piece is simple.

Politicians, like Bachmann, need to be more responsible with their words.



  1. Well done. In the age of “sound bite politics” words have consequences, especially to the “low information voter”. These individuals tend to take as fact what they hear from their favorite candidates, on talk radio or from the pundits masking themselves as news anchors on cable television. Thank you for your piece and keep up the good work.