Penn prof bets Bachmann $10,000 she can’t back up vaccine statement

    A University of Pennsylvania bioethicist is offering Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann $10,000 if she can find proof that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.

    Art Caplan issued the challenge Thursday. Since then, he’s has gotten a flurry of e-mails from people offering to add their own money to his. On Friday, the tally had reached more than $200,000.

    “People just saying, ‘I am so glad that somebody finally called out political nonsense’ and sort of ignorance both about vaccines but about science more generally,” Caplan said.

    The challenge follows a comment Bachmann made on the “Today” show Tuesday. She said a woman approached her after a Republican presidential debate and said the following:

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    “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” Bachmann said.

    Caplan said he would give a charity of Bachmann’s choice $10,000 if she could provide one example–certified by doctors—of a woman who became “retarded” due to the vaccine within a week. He said her comment was a “last straw”.

    “I think it irked me because she was reporting anecdotal information as fact,” Caplan said. “Given the impact of fear-mongering and ignorance on vaccines, you wind up killing people.”

    He said if she could not provide the case, she should donate $10,000 to a charity of his choosing.

    A spokeswoman for Bachmann said the campaign has not received a direct offer from Caplan, so she won’t comment on the challenge.

    “I think I’ve made it about 40,000 times at this point in the media, so I find that response absurd,” Caplan said.

    Caplan said he does not expect the campaign to take him up on the bet, but the media firestorm he has created has had his intended effect of raising awareness about the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine it for all 11- or 12-year-old girls to prevent cervical cancer.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement this week saying there is no scientific validity to Bachmann’s statement.

    Meanwhile, Bachmann continues to reference Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s signing of an executive order to mandate HPV vaccination for girls (an order that never took effect) in her campaign. Today, her campaign released a new video of her objecting to “Perrycare” and the government mandating “injections for sexually transmitted diseases.”

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