Thank you to everyone who commented and sent me notes and messages on my last article, “A Pro-Vaccine Point of View.” I would like to address the issues that were raised from those comments in an effort to give an answer to all aspects of this controversial topic, especially since I know that some do not read all of the comments nor do they follow the links and read the supplemental articles. I was able to give a short answer to those topics, but I think it is helpful to give a more complete answer. It may be beneficial, also, to use some more sources.
Vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases
The objection to the Hep B Vaccine is the result of bad information about the Hepatitis B virus. Some have asked, “Why do I need to vaccinate my newborn from a sexually transmitted disease?” My answer is that while Hep B definitely is an STD, and it may also be transmitted through the use of non-sterile needles (from tattooing or intravenous drug use), these are not the only ways in which the disease is transmitted. It can be contracted through casual contact of body fluids (sweat, tears, blood, saliva, etc.), and sometimes the infected person may not even know they carry the disease. Hepatitis B can survive outside the body for up to 7 days. It can be transmitted at the time of birth from an infected mother to her baby, but if the baby is inoculated within the day, then the disease will succumb to the vaccine. That’s why the Hepatitis B vaccine is given almost immediately after birth. Secondly, Hepatitis B has no cure. The infected person deals with its effects for the rest of their life. So this is not a disease like Chicken Pox in which you may get it, but then you can survive without permanent damage.
The big issue on the Human Papillomavirus is that HPV can only be contracted through genital contact (unlike Hepititis B or A), so why innoculate someone who won’t be sexually active and will marry a virgin. It’s a good question. After all, there are many young people I know in this category, myself and my husband included. The basic information about the vaccine is easy to come by. The HPV inoculation is given to young people between the ages of 9 and 18 years old. The Human Papilloma Virus can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. There is only one cause of cervical cancer: HPV. This is different from other types of cancer which have multiple causes. So not everyone who has HVP will get cervical cancer, but everyone who has cervical cancer did have HVP. Therefore, if you are inoculated from HVP it is guaranteed that you will not get cervical cancer. Also, the only ways to contract HPV is by genital contact. This includes babies who are born vaginally can contract HPV from an infected mother. Once a person is infected, there is no way to completely erradicate it, and there are no safe and effective treatments for genital warts. This is not something you want to just deal with and let you body fight off. The HPV vaccine has not shown to be effective in regressing the virus once caught, so it can only work if it is received before an infection occurs. And finally, it is possible to be unaware if you have the virus since there are no initial symptoms.
My readers must understand that I am coming from a standpoint of being Pro-Vaccine in general. That is, I believe the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, and I believe that vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of the public. (See my first article.) So my view is that there are no down sides to having the inoculation against HPV. My thinking then is, since HPV can only be contracted in a very specific way, and since I am going to assume my children will not be sexually active and will remain virgins until marriage, are there any scenarios at all in which my children would contract HPV? Is there any conceivable way my children could possibly contact HPV no matter how remote the chances? I can think of a few unlikely (hopefully) but very possible scenarios in our world.
Heaven forbid it, but let’s say one of my daughters is attacked by some psychopathic predator, and is violated by him. If he has HPV, she will likely contract it as well. Why add to the horror and trauma by also having to worry about any ongoing incurable disease. I would think if my daughter ever did contract cervical cancer or herpes in this way, every time she has a flair up or need to do some sort of treatment, it would dredge up all of the hurt and torment. This is a morbid and terrible thought, I know, but how many times have we heard, “I didn’t think it would happen to me”?
Another possibility for my godly daughters who have kept themselves virgins could be that they may decide to marry a man who has HPV. This could happen in several ways, one of which could be that he contracted it before he became saved. Even though I would council my daughters to marry a virgin no matter what the timing of his conversion was, it is possible that they would make a decision apart from my advice and wisdom in this area. I would not want to add this further burden of incurable disease to her and to their children (my grandchildren). And if the case is that my future son-in-law has truly repented of his past sin and has turned to the Lord, then preventing the disease from being transferred to his wife (my daughter) will be a help to him as he tries to put his past behind him. Possibly even though my daughter’s husband may be a godly and pure man, he may have come from a very rough family background and have contracted the disease as an infant or child. In our current culture with 79% of people being infected over their lifetime, this scenario is becoming more and more common among the Christian community.
And the third possibility, of course, is that even though I may train up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they may choose of their own free will to rebel against God. I pray every day that doesn’t happen, but it surely could and has happened to beloved friends of mine who all knew better. There are plenty of consequences to poor life choices without having also to bear this burden. In this case, my thinking goes, preventing the disease can give my child more time to repent of her lifestyle as well.
As to the concern that by preventing an STD I would be in effect giving permission to engage in immoral behaviors, I would probably not tell my 11 or 12 year old daughter what is contained in the vaccine that she is receiving. That would solve that problem, in my mind. The full information can be disclosed to her when she is mature enough to handle it. However, just because one disease is preventable doesn’t mean that others are as well, and so warnings about STDs are still a valid preventative tool.
So that is my conclusion. I am pro-HPV vaccine and Hep B vaccine for my children. There is always a small chance of something bad happening or a scenario that I do not wish to come about. But these are diseases that can be safely prevented, and at least that suffering and struggle can be eliminated. I’m for that!
More Reading on Hepatitis B and HPV:
- CHOP A Look at Each Vaccine: Hepatitis B
- CDC Information about Hepatitis B for the Public.
- CHOP A Look at Each Vaccine: Human Papillomavirus Vaccine
- Science Based Medicine: The HPV Vaccine (Gardasil) Safety Revisited
- Science Based Medicine: HPV Vaccination Misinformation and Bias in Medscape
- Infectious Agents and Cancer: HPV Prevention Series
- Boston University: HPV Vaccine Controversy: Ethics, Economics, and Equality
Fetal tissues in the vaccines
This worry is also the result of incomplete information and a failure to think this issue through. (i.e. some people will stop at the word abortion and therefore will have nothing to do with any vaccine.) The issue with the aborted babies’ cells relates to 5 vaccines: Chicken pox, rubella, Hepatitis A, shingles, and one of the rabies vaccines. First of all, I want to say without a doubt, I am pro-life, and I believe that life begins at conception. Any deliberate termination of a pregnancy is murder pure and simple. It is true that those 5 vaccines are made within embryo fibroblast cells that were first obtained from two murdered babies (aborted babies) in the early 1960’s, and the fibroblast cells have continued to be grown in a laboratory since then for the use of developing these vaccines. However, the virus is grown in the cells, the cells are not found in the vaccine in my understanding.
My short answer is this…if you are against using a body part of a murdered baby, then you will also be against using a body part of any murdered adult to be consistent with this reasoning. Human tissues from the deceased are used regularly and with great success. Remember, we are not continually aborting babies in order to make vaccines. We are not injecting aborted babies into our children. WHILE I AM DEEPLY OFFENDED AND SADDENED AND ANGRY ABOUT THOSE TWO ABORTIONS, those murders happened 70 years ago. They are not happening today for the use of vaccines. And further, the cells that are used today are not the actual cells from the aborted babies. They are “cell lines”, cells grown in a lab. What is being grown in the lab is the same type of thing being grown from “live” adult tissues in other applications. For instance, “live human” skin is now grown in a lab for use with burn victims. What is in the lab is not someone’s actual skin from a deceased person. Rather it is a set of artificial “human” skin.
Some people donate their eyes after their death…will their eyes still be used if they are murdered? Of course they will. To me, it’s the same thing. And again, the fibroblast cells are used as a place in which to grow the respective viruses; the cells are not found within the vaccine. If murdering a baby before birth is just as heinous as murdering someone after birth, then using tissues and body parts from either one should be on the same playing field. You are either for using them both or against using them both. I don’t see how you can logically have one and not the other. Having said that, I would TOTALLY understand, if someone just can’t stomach the thought. If that is your only reasoning, I can’t dispute your feelings…but to be consistent, you ought to just refrain from the 5 vaccines in which the tissues are used. I cannot agree, though, that it is morally wrong to use those precious babies’ cells in order to save lives.
More Reading on Fetal Tissues and Vaccines:
- Science Based Medicine Article – (Also deals with other “questionable ingredients” in vaccines.)
- CHOP gives a brief overview of what exactly is in the five vaccines I mentioned above.
- “Vaccines DO NOT Contain Fetal Tissue” by Dr. Jay Wile
- “Vaccines, Abortion & Fetal Tissue” by Michigan Right to Life
I hate the term “questionable.” Just because something is questioned doesn’t mean there’s any validity to the question. But aside from my annoyance with the logic, there are numerous reputable sources for answers to these questions. In general, the ingredients like mercury, preservatives, formaldehyde, aluminum, additives, arsenic, etc. are used in miniscule amounts and are not toxic at these levels, or they simple are not found in vaccines and the claim is false. More reading on the ingredients in vaccines:
- Pediatrics article: “Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do vaccines contain harmful preservatives, adjuvants, additives, or residuals?”
- CHOP – Hot Topics
- CDC – Thimerosal (mercury)
- American Academy of Pediatrics Pamphlet: “Questions and Answers about Vaccine Ingredients”.
- Johns Hopkins Institute of Vaccine Safety
Sids and vaccines
Another question has been raised as to whether there is a link between the instances of SIDS (around 2-4 months old) and the timing of their first large set of shots. And those questions have prompted the scientific and medical community to do research and studies to find any causal relationship. The Institute of Medicine did not find enough information to lead to that conclusion. In fact the findings suggest that is more likely that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is attributed to babies sleeping on their stomachs, cigarette smoking exposure, and mild respiratory infections. More Reading on SIDS and Vaccines:
- CDC information including links to the actual studies
- WHO – “Six Common Misconceptions about Immunizations
- National Network for Immunization Information – “Cause or Coincidence?”
The autism scare – again
Of all the studies done on the efficacy of vaccines, it seems like most of them are done to try to find a causal relationship between vaccines and the rise in autism. None of the studies have been able to find that link. The following are some more links for reading that you may like to do regarding this concern. More reading on autism being caused by vaccines:.
- CDC page which also contains links to the actual studies done – “Concerns About Autism”
- Organization for Autism Research article – “Danish Study Finds No Autism – MMR Link”
- American Academy of Pediatrics – “Autism Facts”
- Autism Science Foundation
- National Network for Immunization Information – “Cause or Coincidence?”
- Consider this info-graphic:
Don’t mess with the way God made our bodies to work
I have heard these comments: “Don’t mess with nature.” “Let our immune systems work. It’s better to build our natural immunity than do it synthetically.” “God made our bodies and they way they work, and so we need to let it do that without outside intervention.” Etc, etc. The implication here is that somehow by our actions we are thwarting God’s perfect will, and the assumption is that anything synthetic is bad and anything natural is good. My first question back is, “How do you know that it ISN’T God’s will for us to use modern medicine to keep ourselves healthy?” Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean that it is necessarily better. Quite the contrary, in fact. Let’s all remember that our world is a fallen world. Only Adam & Eve’s bodies were perfect, our bodies are not. We ourselves need help every now and then. And if we need help, then why not accept with thankfulness the help of doctors and researchers who have developed vaccines? Nature’s way of gaining immunity is to catch the disease…which of course carries much greater risk than having a vaccine. If we are to follow the reasoning that we should always err on the side of “nature’s way” rather than utilizing modern medicine, then what is the thinking when there is an auto-immune disorder in a person? Should we not use insulin for Diabetes? What about Rheumatoid Arthritis or any number of diseases in which the immune system is over-active and begins attacking the body. What about epilepsy? Or any other condition in which medicines are needed in order to live a normal life? Should we never go to a hospital or doctor’s office?
This way of thinking is extremely difficult to keep consistent in and of itself. Why even take out a sliver from your child’s hand? Of course we use every opportunity to help our bodies when there is a problem, and we also do what we can to prevent problems from happening. That’s why we wear seat belts. That’s why we stop our kids from doing activities that might be too dangerous. That’s why we try to have health insurance. Now, I understand if there is a treatment for which you don’t believe you want to take the risk after you’ve done your research. Great! There are truly some experimental trials that you can choose to be a part of or not. The debate over whether to vaccinate is a debate on whether the benefits outweigh the risks. After my research I believe, as you know, that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. But it is silly to make the argument that we shouldn’t vaccinate simply because natural is better. In addition to that, the whole premise sounds fishy to me. It smacks of Eastern Mysticism and a kind of New Age view of “mother nature.” Scripture teaches us that mankind is to have dominion over the natural world (Gen 1:26), not the other way around. Nature is fallen and broken. It will not get better, it will get worse until the Lord returns. (Romans 8:22) See my article: “There’s No Such Thing As Mother Nature” by Rebekah Schrepfer
Rabbit Trail >> I believe this is one reason used when ladies are pressured not to use drug intervention during labor and delivery at the birth of their child. Some may choose to give birth “naturally” in this way simply because they like it better that way. That’s not what I object to. If you want to give birth naturally, you are free to do that. In addition to my rejection of the natural-is-better reasoning as I stated above, I object to the notion that drug intervention is somehow morally wrong, or that it is overly harmful, or that it inhibits the mother’s natural “instinct” to mother. I have an obligation to be a good mother to my kids whether I feel like it or not. My mothering skills have little to do with “instincts.” This is also a poor reason (among others) to eat only organic foods and to shy away from any modern agricultural advances. While I do think it is healthy to avoid too many processed foods, and it is true that some foods are higher in calories and fat (etc.), I am very skeptical about rejecting anything with preservatives or pesticides. Just because something is a chemical and is made in a lab and not found growing on a tree doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad.
More reading on natural immunity vs. vaccines
- CHOP article: Hot topics: Natural Infection vs. Immunization
- (Pesticides are Everywhere! …. So what? (John Stossel, Fox Business Report) (Video)
- CDC: Multiple Vaccines and the Immune System
- “Boosting the Immune System: sorting science from myth”
- Pediatrics Article (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) – “Addressing Parents Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken an Infant’s Immune System?”
- “There’s No Such Thing As Mother Nature” by Rebekah Schrepfer
Anecdotal “evidence” vs. Scientific studies
I’m amazed that it is even a debate as to which of these is more reliable! But for those of you who put more stock into all of the stories that you have heard than in the scientific studies done, let’s review why a peer-reviewed study is more reliable that an anecdote. That is not to say that an adverse event didn’t happen. The problem with anecdotes is that you are hearing about a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines given. And for each of those adverse events, how many have determined conclusively that the vaccine caused the event? Here is an excerpt from an article about why our brains like to believe anecdotes as opposed to the scientific facts. He says it better than I would: Why anecdotes are problematic
Consider all the practices that go into a valid scientific study – large, representative sample sizes, systematic observations, control groups, blinded procedures, attempts to eliminate confounding variables. None of these are considerations in anecdotal evidence.
We have plenty of results that show just how unreliable anecdotal evidence is compared with rigorous studies. That’s why scientific procedures had to be used in trials – because anecdotes aren’t good enough to provide precise, reliable information.
Scientific procedures are designed to remove the biases, subjectivity and emotion from the results. We aim to get an answer that is, to the best of our ability, not what we want it to be. We may get an answer that is not emotionally or cognitive comfortable to all. But that doesn’t make it less true. (source)
In addition, I suppose if someone really likes to hear the anecdotal stories, there are plenty of stories on the other side as well. Shot by Shot is a website full of stories just about people who have died from preventable diseases. Or what about all of the millions of people who DON’T contract an infectious disease because they were immunized. Those stories aren’t as heart-wrenching or newsworthy. This is also why nothing normal is reported on the news…only the unusual. It seems that more people are willing to believe a YouTube video or a “shared” article on Facebook than go to the actual study or read an article written by the same researchers who have done the studies. It seems too hard for most folks to weed through the technical jargon to get to the main point…and when someone summarizes for us what the study says, it is blamed for being skeptical and ignorant. Of course, it is important to report an adverse event when it happens. And you can do that here: CDC Adverse Event Reporting System. It’s not that these events don’t happen at all…it’s that there are so few of them, that it is statistically difficult to tell whether a vaccine actually caused the reaction. More reading on Anecdotes and Scientific Studies:
- What value there is in anecdotal stories: “The Role of Anecdotes in Science-Based Medicine.”
- “Gerbils don’t cheap, but humans do, sometimes inadvertently”: “Weak Evidence”
- Why we like to believe anecdotes: “Emotionally and cognitively satisfying anecdote”
- How the scientific community records and reacts to adverse events: “Gold mine or dumpster dive: a closer look at adverse event reports.”
- National Network for Immunization Information: “Vaccine Misinformation”
Whom to trust?
As I said in my previous article there is simply a deluge of websites and claims on the internet that are anti-vaccine, and it seems that the pro-vax side has lost ground in this area. I think that is because in the medical community (mostly) and in the scientific research community, this isn’t a controversy. The evidence they see is overwhelmingly pro-vaccine. The controversy exists with parents and skeptics and worry-mongers who refuse to look at the real hard facts. It is natural to think that the view that has the most information must be true. However, it’s not logical to think that way. When deciding whether something is true we must remember some basic helps in determining trustworthiness.
- Go to the source. I encourage all of you NOT to take my word for other than what it is…my opinion. Go to these websites, read the studies.
- Peer Review. That is, we must trust those who are qualified in the field of infectious diseases and immunology. I am not qualified to fully understand the technical language of most of the scientific studies done, but there are plenty of doctors and scientists who are qualified…and they do critique and review the studies within the journals and associations. As much as I love my children, my love is not enough to make a judgment about this complex issue. In the end I have to put my trust in the experts’ expertise. Moreover, the system in place that checks and re-checks and studies and re-studies the vaccines and their efficacy make it much more likely that vaccines are safe for the vast majority of people. And conversely, those same checks make it awfully difficult to believe there is something wrong with the vaccines. But it is more likely that these educated and experienced experts in the field of infectious diseases and immunology know what they are doing than anyone I’ve seen or read in the anti-vax movement who are just not qualified in this field. Some may call this “blind faith”, but I don’t believe so. It is not blind; it is sensible. It is not blind to put my trust in something that is trustworthy, and their education and decades of experience in this field earns my trust.
- Look at the whole picture. The numbers alone show that vaccines are safe and effective. The studies done and which are being done continue to reiterate that vaccines are safe. Yes, there are concerns, but when those concerns are studied in an unbiased, controlled way, the result still prove the efficacy of vaccines.
All of this, and still there is more on my reading list as I continue to learn. Yet, I become more and more confident that my children and myself are safe getting vaccines.