What I Believe about Vaccines.

Posted: March 14, 2014 in Science, Theology, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

vaccine-baby

With the recent outbreak of measles in the eastern Fraser Valley I have been asked what my position on vaccinations  is.  Most of us have heard on the news that the outbreak is mostly isolated to some small “Reformed Christian” communities in east Chilliwack.  I am a “Reformed Christian” who is in east Chilliwack,  however my view is not representative of all Reformed Christians – even of those in my denomination, the Canadian Reformed Churches.  As well, there are many Reformed Christians who choose not to vaccinate for reasons other than religion. There are differing views among the handful of different Reformed denominations, each seeking to glorify God and stay true to scripture, however most of the denominations have no formal stance for or against vaccinations that I was able to find online. 

First I want to say, please don’t believe everything you read in the news, or on Google, or in Wikipedia – or on this blog.  What I present here is my own research and my own beliefs.  I encourage you all to do your own digging in the Bible and in scientific journals to really learn for yourself.  I have to admit I cannot stand fear-mongering on either side of this debate, “Get the MMR or your child will die!” is not valid as we can plainly see that the stats show a decline in mortality rates prior to the MMR vaccine.  But why is that?  With the onset of better sanitation and medical practices and breakthroughs, particularly the increased use of IV therapy in the 1930’s-1950’s, hospitals saw a reduction in mortality rates for all diseases -not just measles.  Is this a good reason not to vaccinate?  I am not so sure. There are still approximately 170,000 deaths per year world wide due to measles.   And  when people say things like “I wasn’t vaccinated and I turned out ok…”  that is not a valid argument against vaccinations!  This is a controversial issue that is personal, and I believe that it falls under Romans 14. So please do not let my views sway you, each of us should be convinced in his own mind.

Here are my thoughts.

From the Reformation we get the 5 Sola’s. All Reformed Christians affirm the 5 sola’s as foundational; one of which is “Soli Deo Gloria”…to God alone be the glory.  As a doctrine, “Soli Deo Gloria” means simply that everything that is done is for God’s glory. We, as Christians, are to be motivated and inspired by God’s glory and not our own motives. Yes, as Christians, everything we do should be to the glory of God.  Every decision we make, every choice should be weighed against this question…”Does this glorify God?” or “How can I seek to glorify God in this?” So, does vaccinating my kids glorify God? How do I know if it does or not? “Sola Scriptura” is another of the 5 sola’s which translates as “scripture alone.” Simply put, Reformed Christians believe that the  Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness, and for glorifying God. We believe that the Bible is the final authority in doctrine and in life. So, for an answer, we must go to the Bible.

But the Bible says nothing explicitly about vaccinations.

How are we to respond when the Bible says nothing explicitly about something? Where Scripture is silent in explicit terms, we should always look to see if there is something we can learn implicitly. Or put another way, we look to see if  something is implied in principle. What we do know is that with a vaccine we are intentionally putting something into our bodies, and the Bible does speak about being good stewards of the bodies we have. Part of being a good steward  is to not blindly cause ourselves harm.  Reformed Christians confess in Lord’s Day 40 of the Heidelberg Catechism that the sixth commandment implies that not only are we not to harm others, we are not to harm ourselves:

105. Q.

What does God require
in the sixth commandment?

A.

I am not to dishonour, hate, injure,
or kill my neighbour
by thoughts, words, or gestures,
and much less by deeds,
whether personally or through another; 1
rather, I am to put away
all desire of revenge. 2
Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself3
Therefore, also, the government bears the sword
to prevent murder. 4

- See more at: http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com/en/lords-days/40.html#sthash.j5p1WZfE.dpuf

So we should know what we are putting in our bodies, be it food, alcohol, chemicals, tobacco, medication or vaccines – whatever.  We all have a duty to investigate and make informed choices.  This is the reason why I don’t smoke any more. I believe that smoking does not glorify God and makes me a poor steward of my body. So, through cursory research of a few peer reviewed scientific and medical journals, and even Google searches of reliable websites, we can easily see that there indeed are risks associated with vaccines.  These risks they are minimal, but are still risks none the less. Results from two very large case series studies involving about 1,500,000 children who were given the MMR vaccine containing Urabe or Leningrad-Zagreb strains show this vaccine to be associated with aseptic meningitis; whereas administration of the vaccine containing Moraten, Jeryl Lynn, Wistar RA, RIT 4385 strains is associated with febrile convulsion in children aged below five years (one person-time cohort study, 537,171 participants; two self controlled case series studies, 1001 participants). The MMR vaccine could also be associated with idiopathic thrombocytopaenic purpura (two case-controls, 2450 participants, one self controlled case series, 63 participants). We could assess no significant association between MMR immunisation and the following conditions: autism, asthma, leukaemia, hay fever, type 1 diabetes, gait disturbance, Crohn’s disease, demyelinating diseases, or bacterial or viral infections Demicheli, V., Rivetti, A., Debalini, M., & Di Pietrantonj, C. (2013). (Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children. Evidence-Based Child Health8(6), 2076. doi:10.1002/ebch.1948)

But we can also see through these same medical journals that vaccines have also been extremely beneficial to the world.  The following graph shows the number of reported measles cases per year in the United States. Actual cases were likely much higher: Alexander Langmuir estimated that about 4 million measles cases occurred in each year shortly before vaccine introduction (Langmuir AD. Medical importance of measles. Am J Dis Child 1962;103:54-56). Note the drop in cases after the introduction of the first measles vaccine in the early 1960s. Source: CDC/MMWR Summary of Notifiable Diseases, United States, 1993; CDC/MMWR Summary of Notifiable Diseases, United States, 2008.

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A question we could ask is, “Should I ever use preventative medicine?”

Preventative medicine is not used to treat disease,  but is in fact taking into your body something to prevent disease that could possibly harm you. I believe the Bible does imply that that preventative medicine is good. In 1 Timothy 5:23; the apostle Paul tells Timothy to “use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”  We all know the dangers of alcohol abuse, and there are some people who are allergic to alcohol, but alcohol is not inherently evil.  So like vaccines or other medications, some people may be harmed by wine.  Yet Paul is giving Timothy advice to take wine as medicine to prevent illness…and prevent illness is what a vaccine does as demonstrated in the graph above. So I believe that the Bible does permit the use of preventative medicine, thus it implies that the use of vaccines is a good thing to prevent illness.

Now the question arises, “How we make those vaccines….does that glorify God?”

Vaccines are made from the virus that causes the disease that the vaccine is meant to prevent. What that means is the measles vaccine is made from the measles virus. That also means that manufacturers require living viruses to produce vaccines.  Viruses require a living host in which to grow,  and since it is not viable (or ethical) to grow it in living humans, vaccine manufacturers use human cells.  The reason for this is that most viruses that we have vaccines for can only grow in certain human tissues. The ones that can grow in animals will often be harmful for humans. New methods are currently being researched that will allow vaccine production without the use of live host cells. Most vaccines are cultivated ethically – at least from what I was able to ascertain.

Here lies the biggest problem I personally have with certain vaccines…Some vaccines have been made using the tissue from aborted pre-born children.  Without doing any research, when one hears, “Vaccines come from aborted children,”  one may decide that vaccines are evil.  I had that gut reaction. So I did my research, and found that there are literally thousands of peer reviewed journal articles to be read on this topic in databases like ebscohost, so please feel free to do your own digging.

Let’s stick with the issue at hand – the measles out break. In 1962 a preborn girl was aborted in Sweden and the body was taken to the USA, where tests were done on the various tissues.  The “Rubella” of the MMR vaccine is cultivated from  a human diploidcell culture, WI-38, which came from lung cells from this 3 month preborn girl. The rubella vaccine was only one of many made using WI-38.   WI-38 was also used to make vaccines against polio, chickenpox, shingles, rabies, and hepatitis A. This cell strain has been growing in laboratory conditions since 1962 and hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines have been made. Today the Rubella virus is grown in a laboratory, and the vaccine is no longer manufactured using aborted human tissue.

Rubella virus usually causes a mild fever and rash in children and adults. However, infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infants with congenital malformations, known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).  20% of infections result in miscarriage. A total of 94,030 rubella cases were reported to WHO in 2012, an 86% decrease from the 670,894 cases reported in 2000 from 102 member states. In 2000 there were approximately 550,000 reported miscarriages  worldwide directly linked to maternal rubella infection.

In  early 1964 there was a Rubella outbreak in the USA that led to approximately 20,000 infants being born with congenital defects, 6,250 miscarriages and 5,000 induced abortions. In 2001, the American Center for Disease Control reported that 3 babies were born with congenital rubella syndrome. In Canada, the average annual number of rubella cases decreased from approximately 4,000 in 1979 to about 1,800 in 1997 to less than 30 cases  per year from 1998 to 2004. From 2006 to 2011, an average of less then 5 cases was reported annually. The average annual incidence rate per 100,000 population decreased from 0.20 in 1998 to 0.003 in 2011 (range: 0.003-0.03, except 2005). In 2005, the rubella incidence was about 1 per 100,000 in Canada.

So, from these stats you can plainly see that the rubella vaccine has prevented many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of miscarriages and induced abortions by protecting pregnant women from infection. But does that answer the question?  Does the fact that the first Rubella Vaccine was made from WI-38 that was taken from the lung tissue of an aborted girl make it wrong to get the vaccine?  I don’t believe so. That first abortion was not performed for the intent to create a vaccine.  The scientists who developed the vaccine a few years later never performed an abortion.  The rubella vaccine in fact prevents preborn children from dying and being born with congenital defects.   I am saddened that the death of a preborn child was involved in the creation of the rubella vaccine.  Is that reason not to get vaccinated? Do we not declare that God is sovereign and uses even evil for good? In Habakkuk we read that God will raise up Babylon, a “ruthless” and “dreaded” nation, to achieve His purpose.  That means he can use sinful men to attain his goals.  He can even use an abortion to attain his goals.  Paul, in Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” “All things” includes both good and bad things.

So to sum up.  I believe that God permits us to use preventative medicine. I believe that the evidence shows that most vaccines are effective, and the associated risks are very minimal. Preborn children are not currently being aborted to manufacture new MMR vaccines. It is estimated that rubella caused over half a million miscarriages worldwide in the year 2000. Measles may not be that deadly anymore, but I believe that God has given us the tools to fight disease, and vaccinations are one of those tools. Part of glorifying God is to obey his commands.  I believe that I glorify God by taking care of my body, my children, and in vaccinating my children and myself. That is why I vaccinate.  

Before you comment please read the entire article don’t just comment on my final paragraph!  My views are not representative of the entire Reformed community. I welcome comments and differing opinions, but I will not permit negative comments.  Thanks for reading!

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Comments
  1. Veronica says:

    I liked your even-handed approach in this article, but I would like to put in what I feel to be a clarification. You stated at the end of one of your paragraphs that “Today the Rubella virus is grown in a laboratory, and the vaccine is no longer manufactured using aborted human tissue.” But I worry that such a statement is a little bit misleading and represents one of the biggest frustrations that I have with researching the issue at all. The statement is true… in a sense, but fails to recognize the actual relation that those cells have in the ongoing production of these vaccines. The cells were initially harvested from pre-born children, and then grown and cultivated and harvested over and over so that the human cells used in the current, ongoing production of the rubella, varicella (chickenpox), and a number of other vaccines came directly from those aborted pre-born children. To say that the vaccine is “no longer manufactured using aborted human tissue” is true only in the sense that the human cells we now use are the product of those abortions and not the babies themselves. Here’s a link to an article I found this morning that explains a bit about human diploid cells:

    http://www.immunizationinfo.org/issues/vaccine-components/human-fetal-links-some-vaccines

    and another one that goes into better detail on what human diploid cells are (especially question 3): http://www.lifecanada.org/vaccines/vaccines-fetal-tissue-qa
    All that is not to say that I’m against vaccinating in itself, and I 100% agree that this falls under Romans 14. It’s just that so often the health care system would like to gloss over that direct link and many people are not aware of it.

    • What you say is true, and I did mention that it was growing in laboratory conditions since 1962..i think i said that. I personally see nothing wrong with the current way it is manufactured. The controversial origins are the issue for me. If they were harvesting aborted children for the purpose of manufacturing vaccines I would be singing a different tune. Once the vaccine is created and there is a viable means to manufacture it that cause no further harm to people, is that not a good thing? I cannot get past the fact that rubella will cause miscarriage – an abortion of a pregnancy – in 20% of cases…I guess it is a philosophical debate we can get into. Ultimately I believe it is a Romans 14 issue, that each parent must decide for themselves.

  2. doulanic says:

    I find this a well written, thought out article Ryan – well done. Your did tackle a lot of info in it – and presented it fairly objectively. I do know, though, that there are more reasons many families choose not to vaccinate ….and some of those reasons were not addressed. For instance – the risk of “vaccine – injury” is high. You only need to look at why the USA has a “vaccine injury compensation program”. There is inherent risk – for certain people. And therein is the issue – we still don’t know how to ascertain WHO is at risk for certain vaccines. The other problem is the preservatives and adjuvants that make vaccines inherently risky. Especially when you look at how many vaccines are now given to babies, say, compared to the early 80’s or 90’s. That’s A LOT of foreign material/viruses/chemicals being injected into tiny little bodies. I think parents who are concerned about this are actually better off than those who blindly accept the new vaccination schedule without question. And that goes for our teens too ….wait till you have to decide about giving your daughters Gardasil or the Hep B vaccine – both STD driven viruses. When does the benefit outweigh the risk? It’s different for everyone, as you already said. But the reasons some of us have for NOT vaccinating, are actually quite complex. That’s one of the hard things to swallow when participating in a debate with a “pro-vaxxer” – most of them assume we don’t know what we’re talking about. Kinda not fair. And then there’s the flu vaccine ….that’s a whole other bag!!! Or the chicken pox vaccine. Lots of fear mongering with both of those. Then there’s the issue of VACCINATED people getting diseases. So we don’t even know how many boosters are necessary to maintain immunized status ….and that may also be partially why we’re starting to see outbreaks of certain diseases again. That’s a nice little cascade that’s going to happen. Pretty soon it will be necessary for adults to get boosters every 10 years or so …. and how many of us are going to want to do that?? Not me for sure. Way more to this issue … way more.

    • Nicole, and I did mention that there are more than just religious reasons to not immunize. I only tackled a few issues, and gave the reasons that I do. I appreciate your views and definitely see the validity in them.

  3. Karissa says:

    I really appreciate your Christian approach to this article! While I may not agree with your stance, ( I do not vaccinate for health concerns related to them), I feel that you really gave a fair approach. Earlier this week I read a “pro vaccinationer’s” status on Facebook which stated “GET EDUCATED AND GET VACCINATED”. I was completely insulted that she calls herself a Christian. I feel that I have done my research extensively and not only relied on what I hear from our public health system

  4. RD says:

    Good article overall but I feel that you missed out on the “love your neighbour” aspect a bit – my kids are vaccinated for themselves but even more so for the immunocompromised or those other babies who are too young to have been vaccinated. Or those who did get vaccinated but it didn’t take (nothing is 100%). I realize then you have to get into explanations of herd immunity and such but in my opinion (and there is some freedom here I acknowledge that) to show love for my unvaccinated (due to age or health reasons) brothers and sisters I should do what I can to prevent them from getting sick. The risks to me or my kids are tiny and well-studied, the risks to them are very real and very serious as you’re unfortunately seeing now …

    • Good points RD, I had to get a flu shot when my dad was sick in palliative care, and when I worked at the hospital I had to have a flu shot as well. maybe I will update the article…later…I have a term paper to finish up!!!!

      • SM says:

        Although I haven’t vaccinated either of my children (for many of the reasons doulanic outlined above), I find the “public health”/ herd immunity argument the most persuasive reason to vaccinate. On an individual level, I think the risk/benefit comparison leaves me convinced they are better off without, as they are healthy kids. But I can see the argument about protecting those with compromised immune systems. However, I always come up against the fact that so many vaccinated people are getting sick, and that studies are showing we need more and more boosters in order to stay protected, and I just wonder, how much of this toxic garbage (that’s what it is! Helpful toxins, but toxic!) do I have to pump into their small bodies for this to actually make a difference? So because I feel so torn about it, the default becomes not vaccinating because I feel like actively injecting my child with something harmful to them would be worse than them becoming ill from a disease that I may or may not have been able to prevent (although no parent wants either, obviously!) Such a difficult decision and I appreciate the respectful dialogue here.

      • RD says:

        SM, thanks for responding in a respectful manner! I hear the same arguments you’re making quite often – that the default position becomes not vaccinating. To me, the default position for a Christian should always be the one that shows the more love for the neighbour, especially if the positions are really that close. We’re making a moral choice for our children because they’re not old enough to be able to make that choice themselves, and I would like my children to make that moral choice in the same way I do.
        As far as the vaccinated people getting sick, I think you need look no further than the current outbreak in your community. Anti-vaccination material makes a huge deal out of it whenever a vaccinated person gets sick, but every time there’s a measles or similar outbreak, it starts in and around a community where a low percentage of people is vaccinated. Polio exists only in countries where vaccination has not been able to be completed to a high degree. If you talk to medical professionals who see sick kids on a regular basis, most will tell you they see sick kids who didn’t get vaccinated more than they see negative vaccine reactions. All anecdotal, but the statistics all add up the same way too …
        Hopefully that gives a little more food for thought. My kids are healthy and are able to handle a tiny little bit of toxic garbage in their bodies every couple of months, especially when it comes along with the assurance that they will (very likely) be safe from these very serious diseases, and that they have done all they can to ensure the health of their neighbours (especially the most vulnerable among them, who may not have been able to be vaccinated, or may be so weak that the vaccine is less effective). Not to mention, they’ve probably picked up even more toxic garbage from the dirt they’ve eaten and the many surfaces they’ve licked, despite my best efforts as a parent …

  5. janelle k says:

    Ryan
    Vaccines is a big topic. I have a suggestion. (Im not saying your research is flawed or wrong) However internet research for vaccines is limited (or limitless) which you probably figured out, if you have the deisre or time to study vaccines more. I reccomend these two quite informative and unbiased written books.
    Your library probably has them.
    http://www.amazon.ca/gp/aw/d/0316180521
    http://www.amazon.ca/gp/aw/d/044661503X

    • Thanks for the suggestions Janelle. I may check them out. Most of my research was done through the university library, and I only had a couple days…this a blog not a dissertation :)

  6. Fiena Dykstra says:

    I am impressed with the depth of study put into this article, it was thought provoking, compassionate and caring for your neighbor as yourself…. God Blesses those those CARE…. And learning and growing as is obvious for yourself you are able to love others on God’s behalf! Kudos.

  7. EW says:

    I don’t believe that immunizations or preventative medicine are against God’s providence or that injecting something foreign is wrong. I do however object to the production of any vaccines using aborted fetal cell lines, and they are more than just the MMR shot. There is more than one strain of cells being used for vaccine development and production, indicating that simply multiplying existing cell lines is not enough to remove the “need” for more lines. For our family, we feel receiving these immunizations implies that we have no problem with the method of production since we are aware of it. There are some animal cell alternatives in other countries, but in general Canadian health care does not allow their use or cover their cost.
    Just to clarify, the MMR immunization contains vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. Measles is not the same disease as rubella (aka German measles). Rubella can cause Congenital Rubella Syndrome. So while the vaccines are given in a combined immunization, the current measles outbreak does not carry a risk of CRS to preborn babies. Also note that MMR is now commonly dispensed including the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine which many people consider unnecessary or controversial and also uses “human diploid cells” as a medium, the MRC-5 strain I believe.

  8. Lyndsay says:

    Thanks for the balanced approach to vaccines! Just popping in with a couple of points to think about:
    1) The risk of SIDS is up in the days following a vaccine. If your child died of SIDS following a vaccine, would that make you guilty of sin against the 6th commandment? (I can’t locate my book “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations,” but the info about SIDS is in there. A really good book, by the way. Balanced.).
    2) Often the vaccine issue is made into an “either/or” situation–either you vaccinate or you don’t. But there are many parents (myself included) who are very concerned about the risks related to vaccines, but also recognize their value and have thus taken a different approach–delayed vaccination. This is self-explanatory: waiting until your child is a little older (and thus has a more developed immune system) before vaccinating. You can also request that the vaccines be separated so that your child isn’t receiving so many toxins at once. (Once again I highly recommend the book I referenced above–it suggests a delayed vaccination schedule).
    Lyndsay

  9. Mark says:

    The arrogance of the vaccine-deniers above is astonishing. Internet research from your couch trumps advice from medical experts? [This] shows a really troublesome lack of discernment.

    As a non-Christian looking in, already wary about the anti-science reputation of the church, foolish opinions that disregard evidence make all of your ideology suspect. When your opinion on vaccination is poorly considered, unthinkingly adopted, and informed by fear and mistrust, I have to wonder about the basis of your theological stances as well.

    • Jill says:

      Hi Mark, are you referring to the original blog post or a comment? I would not say that the original post showed an anti-science attitude or troublesome lack of discernment.

    • Veronica says:

      Mark, you are assuming that everyone who chooses not to vaccinate does so solely based on an internet search. It’s reactions like yours that enflame debates like this one. Your comment included no facts or evidence to back up your claim that “vaccine-deniers” simply do an internet search and then go and ignore the medical experts, so you sound about as arrogant as you claim the other commenters do. Perhaps you would do well to consider your own anti-evidenced based assumptions before judging someone else for what you perceive to be theirs.

  10. Jill says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog post, and found the way you shared your opinion very refreshing. I also cannot stand “fear-mongering on either side of this debate”… which you avoided. You also managed to avoid using an arrogant tone and name-calling to get your point across. Thanks for that!

  11. Ralph Gorley says:

    Perhaps those who object to vaccinations on whatever grounds should completely shun contact with normal people until the outbreak runs its course. It is very un Christian to jeopardize the lives of so many others in the community who are too young to be vaccinated or who are yet unborn. I have searched my New Testament in vain for any sort of proscription by the Lord on such preventative measures as vaccines.

  12. Arnold says:

    Specifically in the case of the MMR vaccine I have to agree with Mark and Ralph.
    Measles is a deadly illness. 3 out of a thousand cases results in death in the developed world. Measles has been largely eliminated so we have forgotten the danger of it.
    We are not being good neighbours but rather a stumbling block in regards to vaccination. Allow me to quote an article from the fall 2013 edition of the quarterly periodical ‘Alberta RN’. The article is titled ‘Call to Arms’ by Sheena Stewart.
    “The reasons behind our less-than-perfect vaccination rates are complex. In some instances, religious beliefs prevent people from immunizations, such as in many of the small Dutch Reform communities that dot the countryside throughout southern B.C. and Alberta. ”
    We get less than honourable mention. Are we being a light to the world around us when we have such a reputation.
    There are side affects and risks with all vaccines. Not being vaccinated in a population that is largely vaccinated is selfish. You share in the benefits of vaccination without sharing the risks.
    That said each vaccination should be considered on the basis of the disease or illness it is supposed to prevent. I am willing to argue that vaccination against STI’s is a completely different story.

  13. Jaguer says:

    With regards to the commentator Mark, statements such as that with no backing and with a belligerent tone are the kind that inflame frustration, and lacks complete comprehension of the subject. Any statements of absolute should be very easy to defend, so please explain why the anti-vaccine comments above are false. Also of further note, very few anti-vaccine defenders use faith to defend their stance.
    Ryan, overall a very respectably written blog post, much appreciate the research and respect given both fields. My main issue lies with your conclusion. Such a bold statement…..even though it’s just your personal conviction, should be well thought out. God’s commandments are the SAME for one and all. The 6th commandment doesn’t have a different meaning for you than it does for me, would you agree? It is the role of the elders to ensure that those in the flock who break with any of God’s commands should be put under discipline. Thus according to your position…..if non-vaccination is a sin against the 6th commandment, the church would have no choice but to discipline all those who do not vaccinate. I believe you may want to retract your statement there.
    Further, it is impossible for anyone to maintain that vaccines are absolutely or completely good. The overwhelming abundance of research and cases against vaccine clearly demonstrate that. A few close to home: my mother was vaccinated for polio and the vaccine GAVE HER THE DISEASE. It did not help her, it harmed her. One of my brothers contracted an illness after a vaccine. Further to that, his doctor at the time said he should not receive any future vaccinations. A brother-in-law of mine suffered complications after being immunized. I have dozens of friends who have never had the flu but upon receiving a flu shot (because mainstream healthcare strongly advises them) became violently ill with the flu. There were so many complications with the H1N1 vaccine that over 50% of GPs in the UK personally refused the vaccine.
    I find it impossible for anyone to conclude that non-vaccination is a sin against any of God’s commandments. I also find it impossible to say everyone should be vaccinated. Yes, some vaccinations have their uses to be sure, but you’ll never convince me that all recommended vaccinations are safe and good for the entire population.

  14. CM says:

    I have personally heard of many people refusing vaccinations for their children, for various health related reasons, but as a Christian who lives in Chilliwack, this is the first I’ve heard of anyone refusing for religious reasons. My Christian friends and I have discussed health issues, in our congregations, and elsewhere, and believe that God uses medicine, nutrition, alternative medicines, etc. in combination with prayer, to heal us. He also heals us apart from medicine, as well. Many people in our congregations are doctors, nurses and health care professionals, who of course, advocate for vaccinations, as do I. People who don’t wish to vaccinate are free to do so, and I understand their concerns, but the diseases we are being immunized against are often severe, and need to be irradicated, for the safety of all.

  15. Jaguer says:

    Also, here is a great read. Many people think unvaccinated persons carry the disease….this position is one supported by people ignorant of scientific fact: It is preposterous to think that a child who is vaccinated no longer carries the bacteria or the viruses that they have been vaccinated against. If, in fact, children are vaccinated, then why are parents and public health authorities afraid that non-vaccinated children are somehow carrying something that their children are not, when they should feel comfortable that their children are vaccinated? You can’t have it both ways…

    http://gianelloni.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/thanks-pharma-you-created-the-anti-vaccine-movement/

  16. After some time to think and reflect, I have decided to remove the phrase in my conclusion about sin against the 6th commandment for me. There were a number of reasons – most notably I do not want to condemn anyone else for their convictions on this topic, or cause anyone to stumble. I still affirm that Romans 14 applies to this topic and that if I go against my convictions without prayer and faith, I would be sinning because of my convictions. As my friends from ARPA said about this issue, “It is good for Christians to respectfully challenge each other’s moral conclusions, as iron sharpens iron.” Thanks everyone for commenting.

  17. Janet says:

    It was good to see this controversial topic presented in a well-balanced manner. I would agree that God permits us to use preventative medicine. However, as Nicole stated above, “there is way more to this issue”. As Christians, I think we also need to reckon with these other issues. Here are some of the concerns I and many others have in regard to vaccine safety and efficacy:
    1. We are told that the risk from vaccines is “very minimal” according to some studies. However, we know that US vaccine makers have been granted immunity from prosecution in regard to damages from vaccines. Then there is also the unsettling existence of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund in the US. These two facts alone are enough to make a parent question the claim that the risk from vaccines is “very minimal”.
    2. Vaccine manufacturers have been convicted of fraud in regards to false claims and cover ups in regard to other pharmaceuticals which have caused morbidity and mortality in patients who used these drugs, resulting in these drugs being pulled off the market. In light of this deception, should we be so quick to trust their claims and ‘research’ regarding efficacy and safety of the vaccines they produce?
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/15/AR2008041502086.html
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/glaxosmithkline-pleads-guilty-in-3b-us-drug-fraud-case-1.1257287
    3.Has any study ever been conducted comparing the short term and long term health of vaccinated vs. non vaccinated children? Maybe a 50 year study? Vaccinated children may be LESS prone to contracting infectious diseases, but are they possibly MORE prone to succumbing to other illnesses over the course of their lifetime? Alternatively, non vaccinated children may contract more infectious diseases, but are they possibly less prone to developing other chronic diseases? To the best of my knowledge, such a study has never been undertaken. Would such a study not put this debate to rest once and for all?
    4. No one denies that there is a certain degree of risk associated with vaccines. Some children and adults will inevitably be damaged by vaccines. I wonder who decides what is an acceptable level of risk in the general population? As Christians, is it okay for us to consider that the health of some children will be sacrificed for the ‘greater good’ of the rest? Is this a biblical principle? Are we for example okay with ‘sacrificing’ the health of 5% of children or maybe 10% for the benefit of everyone else? How does this fit in with sin against the 6th commandment?
    5.Has the safety of administering multiple vaccines concurrently ever been studied?
    6. The number of recommended vaccines has increased dramatically over the years? How many vaccines and boosters are people willing to undergo in the course of their lifetime? 50? 100? 1000? When does the number of vaccines become unsafe? When is enough enough?
    7. Today’s hype and hysteria surrounding ‘outbreaks’ of infectious diseases such as measles and mumps does seem somewhat ridiculous and over the top, to those of us old enough to remember the days when these diseases were common place. Everyone today seems to be terrified of these ‘deadly’ diseases which supposedly cause victims to ‘drop like flies’. Have these diseases become so much more deadly than they were 40 years ago? I remember having the mumps and measles along with all the neighborhood children. I remember too that in 1985 only two of my ten grade 1 students came to school one day because the rest of the students were at home with the chicken pox. I was not concerned about contracting chicken pox or about whether I was due for a booster shot,since I knew that I had life time natural immunity. At that time not one of the mothers ‘freaked out’ about their children having these diseases. Neither did the school officials, nor the health department. Schools were not shut down and no one was quarantined. The story probably was not even mentioned on the news or in the newspaper. I wonder what has changed so much since then.
    8. Gaining natural immunity through acquiring the actual disease, confers much longer lasting (or lifetime) immunity than one would acquire through vaccination which requires repeated booster shots. Isn’t the natural, longer lasting immunity more desirable in some cases?
    9. As with any other medical procedure, there are inherent risks in vaccinations. I believe that parents should become fully informed on the benefits and the risks. Only then can they decide for themselves and their children whether the benefits outweigh the risks. This is especially important when we consider that the risks may be higher for some children than for others.
    10. American children are amongst the most highly vaccinated children in the world. But how does their overall health compare to the health of children in other countries? Are they the healthiest?
    11. What about the adjuvants in vaccines? Are they safe? Are we sure?
    These researchers at UBC aren’t so sure….
    http://vaccinexchange.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/tomljenovic_shaw-cmc-published2.pdf
    It seems unfortunate and unhelpful to me that when someone questions the safety and efficacy of vaccines, others often resort to name calling and derogatory insults. What is the harm in trying to find out the whole truth about vaccines? Can’t we as Christians discuss this topic in a spirit of openness and willingness to find out everything we can regarding both sides of the debate? Is it not possible that the benefits have been overstated and the risks understated?

    • Joanne says:

      Well done Janet, and great questions to ask. A good- spirited debate to find out everything we can would be even greater. Thank you for posting One Christian Dad! I was thankful to read how you wrote about this issue. Even more thankful to see all the respectful comments. I have been reading/researching books, articles,stories, and the internet for many years. Today, information from both sides of this debate is easily found. I truly believe that God gives parents the duty to research the information given in regards to the pros and the cons of vaccinations. The evidence of the pros are clearly out there, finding the cons might require a little more effort but well worth it. I respect each parents decision after their research but cannot understand the blame/condemnation by fellow christians that is put on anyone who does not vaccinate (for whatever reason). I can say with much assurance that Christian parents who make an informed decision not to vaccinate are protecting/raising their own children to the best of their knowledge and ability.

    • RD says:

      Wish I’d come back to this sooner, I’ve done a lot of research on this over the years and have some of these answers, or at least answers that I found helpful. In case anyone still comes and reads this:
      1. The 2 issues mentioned are not unrelated. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund is what granted the vaccine makers limited immunity from being sued (not total immunity). Basically, the US court system is so expensive that they were stopping making vaccines because the process of being sued alone wasn’t worth the expense of making the vaccines. The Fund gave a way to control that cost while still allowing vaccine damage to be compensated at a very lavish scale. If the existence of the fund makes you worried that vaccines are harmful, please look up the stats from the fund – there are very, very few cases overall that get awarded (considering 4 million babies born per year in the US), and there are absolutely no barriers to applying to be compensated (costs are covered whether you prove damage or not). Also, note that the proof required for vaccine damage by this fund is actually lower than what a court of law would require (there is no scientific proof required that the vaccines caused the damage, just a plausible explanation).
      2. The fact that drug makers are held accountable when they provably do wrong should actually be somewhat comforting – there are lots and lots of people looking for vaccine damage, if they have not managed to prove any damage to this degree yet, then maybe it’s just not there. Lots of studies have been done showing that vaccines are safe, I’ve read many of them myself, so I don’t find this convincing. Anti-vaccine advocates are not blameless either (see Wakefield’s autism study), we should evaluate them based on the arguments and the studies that hold up.
      3. There definitely are long term studies done on vaccine safety. I’m not an expert in this area, but google gives plenty of results. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to control all the variables in any study, a long-term study is necessarily harder, so it’s hard to see such a study ever closing off the debate if the existing studies have not managed to do so already.
      4. There is some degree of risk associated with vaccines, and a Biblical perspective can definitely be brought to bear. My favorite two texts along this line are the parable of the good samaritan vs. the temptation of jumping off the temple – the good samaritan assumed some considerable risk to stop and help a man who had just been jumped by thieves on a dangerous road (I hadn’t thought of this until hearing a sermon on this text to not be over “wise” in how we help others, I think it can apply to vaccines along the same lines). Jumping off the temple roof, on the other hand falls under “tempting God”. My reading has led me to conclude that vaccines are much, much safer than stopping on a dangerous road, but opinions obviously vary.
      5. Yes, the safety of administering multiple vaccines has been studied. The order, timing and combinations of the vaccines has also been studied. I’ve read studies on when to optimally administer DPT vs. MMR, and they line up with the current recommendations from the CDC as well as those used in Canada, which gives me some hesitation when talking to those who recommend alternate schedules (which have not been studied as extensively, in my experience).
      6. The number of vaccines has increased. This is only a bad thing if you don’t think vaccines work – if you do think they work, then this also goes towards the number of diseases decreasing. Personally, I find some vaccines more questionable (eg. the flu, which changes too fast for vaccines to ever eradicate, or chickenpox, which is a less serious disease, although if you know anyone who suffers from shingles they will disagree with that).
      7. The hype around ‘outbreaks’ was not possible as few as 15 years ago, when a disease like measles was still endemic in North America (ie, there couldn’t be outbreaks, because it still occurred naturally). In any case, this is more of a comment on our media mindset than on vaccines and/or drug companies. Most statistics from outbreaks support the overall danger of these diseases (eg. hospitalization rates), although thankfully they generally aren’t large enough to validate the more rare harmful effects (eg. deaths), and most also support vaccine effectiveness (although vaccinated people do get sick, that’s only because most people exposed to it are vaccinated – the effectiveness rates are generally well above 90%, whereas unvaccinated people tend to get sick at much higher rates).
      8. Some vaccines (eg. tetanus) require booster shots. Others (eg. MMR) do not. I have seen the claim that MMR does, but the current CDC recommendations (and equivalent in Canada) do not – they require one booster around age 4 or 5 and then … lifetime immunity. If it wasn’t lifetime immunity, you’d expect outbreaks to center around older victims, which they do not. I’m not sure that there is any natural lifetime immunity to things such as tetanus which do require boosters … I have not seen any studies that really make the case that vaccine immunity is inferior to “natural” immunity (vaccines don’t always grant immunity, they do have a failure rate, but that’s a different question – and the failure rates are also well-studied).
      9. Agreed that parents should be informed on the risks. Also, some children may have higher risk than others. Talk to your doctor – no doctor will tell you there is no risk to any medical procedure.
      10. American children actually are among the healthiest in the world when it comes to the diseases they are being vaccinated for. When it comes to active lifestyle, obesity, etc, the story is different. Vaccines are not magic bullets, obviously and especially in these areas. A study that controls for these variables would be tough to impossible …
      11. Adjuvants are not used in all vaccines (eg. MMR does not include any adjuvants). Most adjuvants are also substances which you’re absorbing in small quantities from the environment around you already – toxicity studies do exist for most such materials. I haven’t personally found (or looked for) studies which specifically try to target a specific adjuvant to see how it relates overall to vaccine safety, but vaccine safety in general has been studied, and, to me personally, been proven to be safe, which would imply that I’m satisfied with the contents of the vaccine as well.

      Hopefully there’s nothing that will get perceived as name calling here! I do agree that people should debate this topic in a Christian manner. I do also find that both sides are guilty of under/over stating benefits and risks. For example, I have repeatedly seen a graph showing measles incidence (not mortality) declining drastically in Canada pre-MMR. On researching into it, I have found that it’s based on some very questionable statistical techniques, and that the statistics it’s based on actually show a very different story (large variations from year to year, but only a sustained decrease post-MMR). On the other side, the statistic of “3 in 1000″ for measles deaths does seem to overstate the risk of measles – better statistics show somewhere between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000. If you’re going to research this yourself, my advice is not to take any statistics at face value!