Anti-Vaxxers, they’re everywhere. From religious people on Facebook, to actors who were married to former playmates, people have had their suspicions on vaccination for a long time. This is especially sad to see in the Christian community and the Reformed Christian community (a subset of the christian community.) Because of this, I have sought to answer the two major objections to vaccines that I see repeated all the time. It is my hope that if whether you’re religious or not, you consider what is being presented instead of angrily typing in the comments about how I just want your children to have autism.
Vaccines Cause Autism
As someone who has Asperger’s syndrome, I get a bit turned off when what I have is so feared by other people. I recognize that I have a mild form of Autism and others are further on the spectrum than I, however, this shouldn’t be the worry of the Christian for two primary reasons. The first is we recognize that every life is worth living, we don’t like that certain countries are applying their own natural selection, or selective breeding, weeding out the down syndrome babies to eliminate down syndrome. Why are we having the same mentality?
Secondly, we don’t have to worry about vaccines causing autism because they simply don’t. The hero of the Anti-Vaxxers, Andrew Wakefield who did a study in 1998, claimed to find a link between vaccines and autism.
Before I get into the studies, think about what would have to be true if autism was caused by vaccines.
This would mean that the majority of researchers and medical professionals are lying and for some reason want our children to have autism. But why? Autism is not particularly fatal, so it wouldn’t fall into the conspiracy of the government wanting to thin the population. Perhaps it’s the money, except the fact that Doctors don’t make much at all for doing vaccines.
In numerous studies[i], we see that no link was found. Part of science is having a testable hypothesis that can be replicated by your peers. In a 2011 study on the “adverse effects of Vaccines” the authors demonstrate that not only is autism not linked to vaccines, any injury to the human body in any way from vaccines is exceedingly rare.[ii]
In Mr. Wakefield’s study, he claimed that during his evaluation of 12 children, 8 who had developmental disorders had a common trend, they were all vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Certain things called Mr. Wakefield’s study into question, so much so, that in 2010, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. This is usually framed as the establishment or big pharma keeping the man down for having a different opinion. This is not the case. It wasn’t just that Mr. Wakefield’s study was incorrect and couldn’t pass peer-review, that happens to doctors and scientists sometimes. The problem was the unethical methods associated with the study. For example, Mr. Wakefield was found to have ordered unnecessary invasive procedures that were not approved by the hospitals ethics committee. He also received financial support from an organization that sought to help the allegedly vaccine-damaged children.
Vaccines Use Aborted Fetal Tissue
When this argument is usually presented, it is dishonestly argued. When someone says that vaccines have aborted tissue in them, they give the impression that they take the cells directly from the freshly aborted baby and inject them into the body of your toddler. This is not the case.
The fact of the matter is Vaccines do not contain aborted fetal tissue, rather they have a tenuous link to fetal tissue.[vi] Let me explain what this means.
Take for example the MMR vaccine[vii], in the process of developing a weakened strand of this virus, medical professionals will use the aborted fetal tissue cells to cultivate the virus[viii]. However, these fetal tissue cells are NOT from the abortions happening today, but from 50 years ago. Let me be clear, abortion is a horrendous evil and I do not support it. I want you to think of the age-old ethical problem trolley problem. You witness a train coming towards three people, you see the switch that will change the direction of the train and kill only one person. Do you A.) Do Nothing or B.) Pull the lever?
This example is helpful because the parent who takes to get their child vaccinated is not responsible for the death of the babies involved in the creation of the vaccine. This would be the same idea as rejecting any scientific and medical development just because it was arrived at by unethical means, like Nazi Germany experiments on Jewish children.
I believe that even though abortion is morally wrong, I think using the cells to save lives is bringing good out of evil. In the same way, an adult who was murdered but has viable organs can still save the life of someone else.
But Aren’t We Cooperating with Evil?
This is the most common response to such a situation and I agree that this question is logical to ask. However, it doesn’t make the necessary ethical distinctions that it should.
There are two types of cooperation, formal and material. Formal cooperation would be when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another individual. Material cooperation would be almost the same as formal with the distinction that the person doesn’t share the same intention as the immoral acting agent.
Formal Cooperation with Evil is always immoral; however, Material cooperation is not. An example is a pro-life person who is against abortion and doesn’t want their tax money going to Planned Parenthood, but pays taxes anyway to avoid jail. This person is not committing the same action as someone who donates money to Planned Parenthood even though in both scenarios they’re both funding Planned Parenthood.
Whether it is the unsubstantiated claims that Vaccines Cause Autism or doctors make bank on them, it is clear from the evidence that being against vaccination for these reasons are faulty. Vaccinate your children, protect them so we don’t see any more measles outbreaks or any other disease that should have been defeated long ago but are kept alive by the conspiracy theorists. We do not need people dying from preventable diseases.
[i] Safety of Vaccines Used for Routine Immunization of US Children: A Systematic Review
Margaret Maglione, Lopamudra Das, Laura Raaen, Alexandria Smith, RamyaChari, Sydne Newberry, Roberta Shanman, Tanja Perry, Matthew Bidwell Goetz, Courtney Gidengil Pediatrics Jul 2014, peds.2014-1079; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-1079
[ii] Institute of Medicine. 2012. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13164.
[iii] D’Souza Y, Fombonne E, Ward BJ. No evidence of persisting measles virus in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from children with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics 2006;118:1664-75.
[iv] Andrews N, Miller E, Grant A, Stowe J, Osborne V, Taylor B. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics 2004;114:584-91.
[v] Halsey NA, Hyman SL. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autistic spectrum disorder: report from the New Challenges in Childhood Immunizations Conference convened in Oak Brook, Illinois, June 12-13, 2000. Pediatrics 2001;107:E84.
[vi] Offit PA and Moser CA. Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction. 2011. Columbia University Press.
[vii] J. E. Banatvala, D.W.G. Brown, Rubella, The Lancet, 3rd April 2004, vol. 363, No. 9415, pp.1127-1137
[viii] S. A. Plotkin, D. Cornfeld, Th.H. Ingalls, Studies of Immunization With Living Rubella Virus, Trials in Children With a Strain coming from an Aborted Fetus, American Journal of Diseases in children, October 1965, vol. 110, no. 4, pp.381-389