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Arthur Caplan

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann may have met her match in Penn bioethics professor Arthur Caplan.

On Sept. 12 night during the Tampa GOP debate, Bachmann, a Minnesota Congresswoman, attacked Texas Governor Rick Perry for his use of an executive mandate for all 11- and 12-year-old girls in the state to receive the Human papillomavirus vaccine, Gardasil.

The next day, NBC’s Today show interviewed Bachmann. “I had a mother last night come up to me, here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate,” Bachmann said. “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side-effects.”

In response to Bachmann’s comments on the vaccine, Caplan announced a $10,000 challenge for Bachmann in a tweet.

“so here is the deal she has one week to produce her ‘victim’. she pays ten thousand to a provaccine group if she can’t. I pay 10K to a charity of her choice if she does,” Caplan’s tweet read.

“I got angry that she didn’t really get called out by it. … She was, for lack of a better term, getting away with it,” Caplan said.

Caplan has posted multiple tweets on the issue and has opened the discussion on the national stage, most notably on Anderson Cooper 360.

The issue over vaccines is “being debated by politicians who, arguably, could not be more self-interested in scoring cheap debating points, even at a cost of possibly killing young women,” he said.

Although Caplan does not claim that no such woman came up to Bachmann at the debate, “you don’t report heresy and you certainly don’t use it for political points when women’s lives are at stake.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 22, about 35 million doses of Gardasil were distributed in the United States. The CDC’s adverse events database for the drug received a total of 18,727 reports of adverse side-effects following Gardasil vaccinations. Of those adverse-effects, “92% were considered to be non-serious, and 8% were considered serious.”

An adverse event is considered “serious” by the CDC if it resulted in hospitalization, permanent disability, life-threatening illness, congenital abnormality or death. However, the serious events “may or may not have been caused by the vaccine.”

Of the 35 million doses, there were only 68 adverse events reports of death and “there was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine.”

The only other serious adverse events reports were of Guillain-Barré Syndrome — a neurological disorder that causes mild muscle weakness and blood clots. “There have never been reports of cognitive impairment or ‘mental retardation,’” Caplan said.

“It’s time to demand better from our politicians,” he added. “There is only one question — you’ve got a ton of Americans not getting vaccines, what are you politicians going to do about it?”

So far, Bachmann has not responded to Caplan’s challenge. However, Caplan tweeted, saying that the lack of a physical letter to Bachmann may be the reason for her silence. “NPR told me -Her campaign press sec says they have not received a letter from you … so they will not respond to it. A letter?”

Caplan does not look like he is letting up any time soon, pledging Sunday night via Twitter, “As long as Bachmann keeps fear mongering on vaccine safety I will keep posting that she is not telling the truth.”

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