The biggest news in last week's GOP presidential debate was Rep. Michele Bachmann's attack on Texas Gov. Rick Perry for ordering Texas girls to receive the "HPV" vaccine preventing cervical cancer.
Bachmann called the vaccine against the human papillomavirus "dangerous," a claim immediately countered by health experts.
In a story in Monday's New York Times, medical reporter Denise Grady wrote, "But the harm to public health may have already been done. When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop."
Idaho earns the distinction of having the lowest HPV vaccination rate of any state, with 17 percent of girls between 13 and 17 having received the recommended three doses. Others below 20 percent included Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. The national average is 32 percent. Rhode Island has the highest rate, 55 percent.
In the 1990s, Idaho GOP Govs. Phil Batt and Dirk Kempthorne worked hard to boost general immunization rates, but ran into resistance from citizens who see immunizations as unhealthy and who oppose government intervention in health decisions.
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