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September 14. 2011 8:59PM

State vaccines: Bachmann vs. Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s executive order requiring 12-year-old girls to be vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that raises the risk of cervical cancer, was a flashpoint at this week’s Republican presidential debate. The subject needs more light, less heat.

Perry has some questions to answer. He has said his order was a mistake because it bypassed the legislature and because it allowed parents to opt-out instead of letting them opt-in. OK, but where does he draw the line on state vs. parental authority in this area? An opt-in is hardly a mandate, so does he now think girls should not be required to get the vaccine?

Michele Bachmann characterized Perry as forcing “innocent children” to get “government injections.” She later suggested that Gardasil, the vaccine in question, might cause mental retardation. She also said the vaccination was “dangerous.” Nonsense. What’s dangerous is the irresponsible spreading of false rumors about vaccinations. Such fearmongering already has caused children to die, and she is spreading that fear for political gain.

States absolutely have the authority to require vaccinations against a very limited number of communicable diseases. Bachmann suggests they do not. That list includes diseases transmitted by sexual activity. States, including New Hampshire, require vaccination against Hepatitis B, a blood-borne disease that often is transmitted sexually.

The question is not whether a state should require vaccinations, as Bachmann seems to suggest, but where the line is drawn. That’s the question both Perry and Bachmann need to answer.


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