Bachmann first raised the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine issue during the presidential debate, attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who issued an executive order in 2007 mandating that girls get the HPV vaccine as part of a school immunization requirement. She questioned the state's authority to force innocent little 12-year-old girls to have a government injection that was potentially dangerous.
The following day, she told NBC's Today show the story of a woman from Tampa, Florida, who approached her after the debate and said her daughter became mentally retarded after getting the Gardasil vaccine made by Merck, Reuters reported.
Steven Miles, a bioethics professor at the University of Minnesota, is offering $1,000 if medical records of the woman from Bachmann's story can be produced for scrutiny by a medical professional. Following Miles' offer, his former boss from the University of Minnesota, Art Caplan, who is now director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, offered $10,000 for proof of the HPV vaccine victim, Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
These types of messages in this climate have the capacity to do enormous public health harm, Miles said of why he made the offer. The woman, assuming she exists, put this claim into the public domain and it's an extremely serious claim and it deserves to be analyzed.
Bachmann's comments on the vaccine's toxicity have drawn heavy criticism from medical professionals who fear the damage has already been done.
Since the vaccine has been introduced (in 2006), more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record, Dr. O. Marion Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement.
Bachmann repeated the story to several news outlets over the next 24 hours after the presidential debate, and sent a fundraising letter to supporters about the exchange she had with Perry on the debate stage. But when she was pressed by Fox News' Sean Hannity on his radio program about the story, Bachmann said she had no idea if it was true.