On the Moral Duty to Vaccinate Your Children

Thursday, October 30, AD 2014

There is nothing quite as soul crushing as reading a thread on Facebook or social media regarding vaccinations, especially when well-intentioned but seriously misinformed Catholic parents express their outright refusal to vaccinate their children. This anti-vaccination fervor has been sparked by long-discredited studies as well as well as celebrities of shall we say less than dubious credentials.

Not all opposition to vaccination is based on groundless fears about autism or other health issues. Some Catholics also have concerns about the nature of vaccine research and the possibility that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissues. The Rational Catholic discussed this topic, and puts to rest some of the myths surrounding this line of attack, and he quotes from the National Catholic Bioethics Center:

Parents may vaccinate their children because by doing so, they are not involved in any illicit form of cooperation with the original abortion. Many Catholic experts concur that cooperation today is not really possible in an event that was over and done with many years ago. Because the abortion occurred long ago, and for reasons completely unrelated to vaccines, it is untenable to conclude that vaccine recipients today somehow cooperate in the original abortive event. Moreover, there is no ongoing use of recently aborted material for vaccine preparation; the lines obtained 30 or 40 years ago are the only abortion-derived lines being used currently for vaccine production. In sum, then, by vaccinating their children, parents do not illicitly cooperate in evil, nor otherwise engage in wrongdoing. If pharmaceutical companies or other agencies derive fetal cell lines from elective abortions, those companies or agencies, not the parents, are guilty of immoral cooperation in the evil of abortion.

The Rational Catholic has another pair of posts that delve deeper into vaccines, and goes so far as to argue that not can Catholic parents vaccinate their children, they have a moral obligation to do so. Again, quoting from the Catholic Bioethics Center:

Focusing in on your central question, there is indeed a moral duty to immunize one’s child and so help preserve the public good through the use of scientifically established and clearly beneficial programs of vaccination. The chickenpox vaccine may be an exception to this rule, as the risks resulting from this disease are not great. As for the rest, for example, measles, mumps, and rubella, these are important childhood vaccinations and parents have a special duty to care for and love their children. Children cannot make these decisions for themselves and so depend upon the prudential judgments of others.

Unfounded fears about possible adverse effects do not overcome the objective duty to make use of immunizations. To make a sound moral judgment, the individual Catholic must properly inform his or her conscience. That means that one must seek to determine whether fears are based in reason and fact, or they are instead merely — if I may put it this way — superstitions. A correctly formed conscience will come to the conclusion that immunization is a moral obligation.

For those who remain “invincibly ignorant,” and who refuse to acknowledge facts, they must follow their conscience even though it is ill formed.

Of course not everyone will be convinced on this issue, no matter what evidence is out before them. But hopefully all parents – Catholic or no – will at least mediate on the potential harm they are doing to their children and other people’s children by refusing to vaccinate them.

28 Responses to On the Moral Duty to Vaccinate Your Children

  • “A correctly formed conscience will come to the conclusion that immunization is a moral obligation.”

    WOW! What a meddling do-gooder stretch of the gospel. Exactly how far do you take that? Because the gov’t says we need to get a shot, we are sinning if we don’t?

    “Moreover, there is no ongoing use of recently aborted material for vaccine preparation; the lines obtained 30 or 40 years ago are the only abortion-derived lines being used currently for vaccine production.”

    Who exactly is taking the responsibility of proving this unprovable, very politically correct statement? And what are the limitations on it? Only here in the US? Only in their state? Anywhere in the world? If the companies using those lines from 30-40 year old abortions could not make a profit from it–they would cease using them. I want the names of the companies that are using 30-40 year old abortion materials and the names of the inoculations that are being made from them, and where they are currently being distributed/given. If this is so morally acceptable, there should be no problem with us being given that information.

    “Not all opposition to vaccination is based on groundless fears about autism or other health issues.”

    There is a huge difference between saying something has not been proven and that it is unprovable (i.e. groundless.) They are not the same.

    ” That means that one must seek to determine whether fears are based in reason and fact, or they are instead merely — if I may put it this way — superstitions.”

    Well, my best friend’s 1 year old granddaughter’s doctor said that an inoculation she recently received is the cause of the horrible, disabling, incurable juvenile arthritis the child has developed. That is a fact.

  • “The chickenpox vaccine may be an exception to this rule, as the risks resulting from this disease are not great.”

    Even this is an incorrect value laden judgement. Try having a debilitating outbreak of shingles for an extended period of time like I and friends of mine have had!! My extended family out to the 4th cousins had the measles and mumps as children and have had no lasting effects from those diseases. Please note: I have a large family.

    Another point of contention for me & my well developed conscience is the giving of Hepatitis B inoculations to newborns in their 1st 24 hours of life when they do not have their full immunity. Are their studies that show this is good for the barely born babies? I don’t know about your neighborhood, but I have never lived in a place where there was an ongoing rampant outbreak of Hepatitis B–although I did work in a neighborhood several years back which was experiencing a large number of Hepatitis B cases in adults who lived immoral lives–however I was in my late 30s at the time (hardly a new born and was never exposed directly to my knowledge.)

    The folks who make and market these inoculations nor the developmental stages at which the government administers them to children are run past God for His approval. It is the FDA that approves them. An incompetent, behemoth of an unaccountable politicized federal bureaucracy.

  • “Because the abortion occurred long ago, and for reasons completely unrelated to vaccines, it is untenable to conclude that vaccine recipients today somehow cooperate in the original abortive event.”

  • “Because the abortion occurred long ago, and for reasons completely unrelated to vaccines, it is untenable to conclude that vaccine recipients today somehow cooperate in the original abortive event.”

    . . . but that was in another country,
    And besides, the wench is dead.

  • Spare me.
    .
    And yes, my kids did eventually get vaccinated. Vaccines, like any other drug, have side effects. For most people, minor, but not for all. My grandmother’s death was hastened by a bad reaction to a vaccine (granted, that was many moons ago.)
    .
    If vaccines work as well as they are purported to work, then the vaccinated should have NO fear of the un-vaccinated.
    .
    http://www.cogforlife.org/

  • Isn’t his one of those prudential decisions that a Parent must make?

  • If vaccines work as well as they are purported to work, then the vaccinated should have NO fear of the un-vaccinated.

    Gonna repost this link from the main body of the article.
    http://welovegv.com/entries/vaccines/an-open-letter-to-non-vaxxers-

    Isn’t his one of those prudential decisions that a Parent must make?

    I suppose in the same way that deciding whether to feed and shelter your child is a prudential decision.

  • You are a braver man than me Paul! I only write about relatively non-controversial topics like the use of the atomic bomb!
    I am all in favor of vaccination and my bride and I paid meticulous attention to having our kids vaccinated. My paternal grandmother passed on to me grim family history of the conditions that existed in the days before widespread vaccinations for common diseases.

  • I don’t blog as often as I used to Don, so I gotta make it count.

    By the way, despite my admittedly sarcastic (and for that I apologize) reply to Anzlyne, I am willing to concede that vaccinating your kids is not exactly a magisterial must on the order of Baptism. There is some room for debate on the theological imperatives, and in a sense I regret that the post may have over-emphasized that aspect of the issue. That being said, I do not view this as something akin to natural child birth, breastfeeding, cry it out, and other parenting issues that are matters of judgment and circumstance. The decision to not vaccinate one’s children is something based on junk science and fear mongering, perpetuated by celebrity dullards who have done untold damage by spreading their ignorance and stupidity.

  • Yes, this is one of those cases in which parents must make prudential decisions.

    The Vatican has said that parents must avoid tainted vaccines with ethical alternatives. They have also said that to use tainted vaccines is “very remote mediate material cooperation” with evil.

    Furthermore they said one must weigh the risk of cooperating with evil and violating ones conscience versus the well-being of ones children and the population at large.

    They consider the lack of ethical alternatives to be moral coercion.

    Please read the Vatican’s statement before jumping to the conclusion that vaccination is a moral imperative.

    http://www.cogforlife.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/vaticanresponse.pdf

  • A critical part of the the Vatican document states:

    As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which
    are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to
    considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience.
    Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true
    in the case of vaccination against German measles.

    In other words, if there are no alternatives, and withholding vaccination will cause potential harm to the population, then it is morally licit to vaccinate, and in fact would almost appear to be a moral necessity.

    Parents who do not immunize their children against rubella would be responsible for the malformations and subsequent abortions of malformed fetuses that might result from a pregnant women being infected by the unvaccinated child, both the study and Msgr. Suaudeau said.

    In this case, the parent would be in “much more proximate cooperation with evil” than if he had accepted a morally questionable vaccine to begin with, he said.

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0504240.htm

  • Interesting, from the CDC:

    “Nearly everyone in the U.S. got measles before there was a vaccine, and hundreds died from it each year. Today, most doctors have never seen a case of measles.

    More than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921, before there was a vaccine. Only one case of diphtheria has been reported to CDC since 2004.

    An epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12½ million Americans, killed 2,000 babies, and caused 11,000 miscarriages. In 2012, 9 cases of rubella were reported to CDC.”

    Except measles has begun to make a comeback, with multiple communities around the U.S. suffering outbreaks in 2014.

  • Well, if vaccines are going to be mandated for “health and safety” reasons, then so should breastfeeding. No, breast is not best. Breast is standard. Formula feeding is substandard feeding, although certainly better than starvation. Breast-milk has many antibodies and nutrients that formula does not have and will never have. Formula fed babies have more ear infections, allergies, more prone to obesity, and the list goes on. See more at
    .
    http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc
    .
    and
    .
    http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Breastfeeding-Benefits-Your-Baby's-Immune-System.aspx
    .
    Mothers who breastfeed have lower rates of breast and uterine cancers. (I really ought to say that exclusively formula feeding mothers have higher rates of those cancers, since the human female body was designed to nurse the infant, not use a bottle.)
    .
    http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/why-breast-is-best/7-ways-breastfeeding-benefits-mothers

  • Oh, yes, let us not forget handwashing. It is a moral duty to wash your hands with soap and water.
    .
    http://www.globalhandwashing.org/resources/general/handwashing-ebola-factsheet
    .
    I remember reading an article many, many years back written by some “virus hunters” who remarked that a lot of epidemics could be stopped by soap, water, and bleach.
    .
    Soap, water, and bleach brings us to the “proper” sanitation angle. I don’t doubt vaccines have been helpful in stopping things like polio and small pox, maybe chicken pox as well (from which people do die, so I am not sure why it would not be morally required to get the chicken pox vaccine if others are required.) Better sanitation methods (especially the clean water we take for granted in the West) are very much a part of stopping diseases.

  • Well said, Paul.

    It was interesting hearing my mother in law’s opinion on vaccination:

    “My sister *died* of diphtheria.”

    Bonus: her father crawled into a bottle for thirty years after watching his baby girl die.

    Yeah, we vaccinate. There’s something to be said for listening to the painfully-earned wisdom of your elders.

  • Dr. Salk’s original polio vaccine used a live virus –children were deliberately infected with a weakened strain so that their immune system could develop the antibodies necessary to fight off a full-blown polio infection. There was a real chance of contracting full-blown polio. I don’t know how many, but it’s a fact that children were crippled as a result of taking the vaccine.
    .
    And yet, fully aware of the risks, and in spite of them, parents lined up to get their kids vaccinated. Because they knew what polio was. Today, we have to invent our own anxieties.
    .
    Normally we don’t bother with flu shots. This year, between that entero-virus going around, and idiot health care workers traipsing about after sojourns in the hot zone, I got my kids vaccinated. Because if there are flu-like symptoms in my house, I don’t want to be thinking “it’s just the flu.”

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “My paternal grandmother passed on to me grim family history of the conditions that existed in the days before widespread vaccinations for common diseases.”

    I am not yet seventy and I was vaccinated for smallpox, a legal requirement under the Vaccination Acts. I believe the last outbreak in the UK was in Bradford in 1962, originating from a child recently arrived from Karachi. Twelve people died. The French authorities took it seriously enough to require everyone entering the country from the UK to produce a vaccination certificate.

  • A little more than 14 years ago, before my 1st child was born, and my doctor told me that I needed to stop eating turkey sandwiches for lunch because I was pregnant, I researched vaccines. I made the informed decision to delay, and spread out the (and, oh the horror, decide to not get certain) vaccines that my children had to have. Every day, I praised the Lord that there were no adverse reactions. In 2011, we were looking at doing foster care. The state required the hepatitis B vaccine for our children (not the adults for some reason), and against my better judgment, I let my kids get the vaccine. My oldest son’s hair fell out (alopecia areata). I used “alternative” medicine and essential oils to help his hair grow back. I praise the Lord everyday that the adverse reaction wasn’t worse, and that his hair grew back. Have you done any research on the vaccine craze for the Gardisil Vaccine? “Over my dead body” would be my only answer to my children’s pediatrician on that one. Go to the VAERS website, choose 2014 and look at the 18,000 reported vaccine injuries. And look at the Died? column. It’s not empty. if your family hasn’t been adversely affected by a vaccine, you should be praising the Lord in Heaven.

  • Missy wrote, “look at the 18,000 reported vaccine injuries. And look at the Died? column. It’s not empty.”
    Granted, but in 2012, there were some 528,000 cases of cervical cancer and 266,000 deaths.
    Where does the balance of risk lie?

  • Gardasil does not protect against cervical cancer; it helps stop the spread of a couple of different strains of HPV that contribute to its cause. It does not stop all cases of HPV.
    .
    Abstinence before marriage and being faithful to one’s spouse would also stop the spread of HPV, and do a far better job of it.

  • I wonder how many parents that are concerned with their moral duty and frog march their children to every vaccination and flu shot available, recognize how this behavior compares in importance to family outings once per month to the Sacrament of Penance. Which activity matters most? Which activity is most frequently carried out?

  • Non-sequitur. One can be pious and still take care of basic health care needs of kids.

  • But how many practice health care for their eternal life. Our Lord said that the way to heaven is narrow and few go there. Since this is a catholic forum, it begs the question, how many follow our Lord’s advice for an eternal reward. Does an immunization or flu shot rank higher. It is not a “non-sequitur” at all. A poor choice indeed to inject a red-herring. Nice try.

  • “Abstinence before marriage and being faithful to one’s spouse would also stop the spread of HPV, and do a far better job of it.”
    True, but no woman can totally exclude the possibilities of her husband’s infidelity or of rape. The same can be said for an HIV vaccine should one be developed, or any other vaccine for STDs.

  • No, it is very much a non sequitur, Rick. A parent must safeguard both the physical and spiritual well-being of their children. It is not an either/or proposition. If some people ignore the latter, that is not an excuse for others to ignore the former.

  • No one addressed WHY a newborn baby must begin Hepatitis B inoculation before they are 48 hours old and have relativey small immunity to anything in this new world they entered. Let me encourage you to look into the connections between inoculations and non-Autism cognitve disabilities.

    I took the flue shot or 10 years and developed a version of the flu from the shot and then got a 2nd version of the flu as well for the majority of the same years. Yes, I know that the nurses have told me that there was no live virus being injected into my body. So how come my arm swelled for days, and I ended up with fever within 24-72 hours everytime?

    re: “I made the informed decision to delay, and spread out the (and, oh the horror, decide to not get certain) vaccines that my children had to have. Every day, I praised the Lord that there were no adverse reactions. In 2011, we were looking at doing foster care. The state required the hepatitis B vaccine for our children (not the adults for some reason), and against my better judgment, I let my kids get the vaccine. My oldest son’s hair fell out (alopecia areata).”I am all for spacing inoculations out and waiting until children are older and have some immunity to this world they come into before illiciting such immune responses from their new little systems. The rush to innoculate them has more to do with gov’t funded day care from 6 weeks of age than it does the welfare of the child in this nation.

    Re: “By the way, despite my admittedly sarcastic (and for that I apologize) reply to Anzlyne, I am willing to concede that vaccinating your kids is not exactly a magisterial must on the order of Baptism. There is some room for debate on the theological imperatives, and in a sense I regret that the post may have over-emphasized that aspect of the issue.” The article says that it is a moral imperative and that a properly formed soul would make that decision. Again, the gov’t is propogating these things-not God.

  • I do not agree with annual flu shots or most of the vaccinations offered. I hope some parents do the research and discover how ineffective some of these injections are and the real negative side effects. Just consider the HPV vaccination and why it was developed and how little it works. Each parent should pray this has no long lasting impact on their children. We will know in about 25 years.

  • And I pray that most parents aren’t as ignorant and misinformed as you, Rick, at least for their children’s sake.