Michele Bachmann's repeated suggestions last week that the HPV vaccine might be some kind of evil "government injection" that makes little girls promiscuous and possibly "mentally retarded" may go down as one of the stupidest things ever uttered by a politician, and perhaps that's why she's totally backtracked on that statement — she was just repeating what she heard, she didn't mean it. Well, too late. Scientists say that the misinformation she's spread could set back use of the vaccine, even after Bachmann has dropped out of the race and become nothing more than a Trivial Pursuit answer (please, God).
As we saw in recent years when Jenny McCarthy popularized the incorrect belief that vaccines cause autism, when a celebrity rails against a vaccine, it can be very difficult for public health officials to correct the misconception. Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases, tells the New York Times, "These things always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can't afford."