Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to be Pro-Life and Pro-Vaccinations in 5 Easy Steps


On Monday I wrote about my 2-month old son's first vaccination experience. I mentioned that he received his 6 vaccinations (Hep-B, RV, DTaP, Hib, PCV, IPV) in the form of 1 oral and 5 separate shots. The reality is that I easily could have elected for him to receive fewer shots by allowing the nurse to administer the "Pentacel" shot - which combines DTaP, IPV, and Hib all in one. Fewer shots for my baby? Undoubtedly most mothers would choose this option for their child.

In fact, most children would automatically be given the Pentacel shot because doctors and nurses are all about administering less shots when they can. This means that unless you specifically request not to have your child receive Pentacel the odds are that you will automatically get it - without even being told any other options such as Pediarix (an alternative combination shot you can find available some places) or that you can have each shot administered separately. Ultimately I consciously decided to have Gabriel receive all 5 shots individually for one very important reason: the lining of the Pentacel shot is derived from aborted fetal cells.

The unfortunate reality is that many vaccinations are made from aborted fetal cells. In fact, some vaccinations are only made from aborted fetal cells which means currently there are no ethical alternatives for those of us that are pro-life. This knowledge is incredibly frustrating, but unfortunately there are a couple of reasons why this is the case here in the United States:

1) Most people are unaware that aborted fetal cells are often used in the making of vaccinations and/or
2) the culture of death that has become so rampant and commonplace nowadays has numbed many individuals from caring.

It's the same reason several people see no problem with embryonic stem cell research; they fail to recognize and honor the dignity of aborted children because they simply don't view them as babies whose lives were ended prematurely. As a new mother I would have been clueless about all of this had I not remembered my older sister speaking about it when my first niece was born. Thank goodness I have someone in my family that was educated enough about this issue to share this knowledge with me!

So what does this mean for those of us that are both pro-life and pro-vaccinations? I'm all about having my baby immunized; I realize the dangers in this day and age of not utilizing what science has given us to protect our children from otherwise deadly diseases. If you are someone who doesn't believe in vaccinations, this post is not written for you. My goal isn't to open up a debate about whether or not children should be vaccinated - because I wholeheartedly believe that they should. My issue with vaccinations (which will be addressed in this post) has entirely to do with scientific practices that I believe are unethical.


At this point it's worth saying that the information presented in this post is relevant to all pro-life individuals - whether you have a religious affiliation or not. Personally, I am Catholic - which is the foundation of all my decisions dealing with morality/ethics. Therefore, I do write this from a Catholic perspective...but any non-Catholic readers should realize that my Catholic faith in this instance simply means I am unabashedly pro-life. So if you identify as pro-life - regardless of whether or not you agree with the rest of my religion - I'm pretty sure you'll find this information about vaccinations and what our options are to be very useful.

As a Catholic, as soon as I became aware of this common medical practice I wondered what this meant for my day-to-day life. Did it mean that I couldn't vaccinate my child if an ethical shot was unavailable? The short answer is: no! However, it does mean that I should request the ethical versions of shots when they do exist. 

Why, specifically, as a Catholic (and/or pro-lifer), am I against vaccinations derived from aborted fetal cells? put it pretty succinctly when they wrote the following:
"The morality of fetal cell use is analogous to that of organ donation. If the patient died of natural causes or a traumatic event, then is is morally permissible to use their organs for the benefit of others. It is not morally permissible to intentionally and prematurely end a person’s life and then take their organs for donation. Using fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses is analogous to using organs from death row inmates or victims of euthanasia."
You can read the rest of what they had to say here. Their article also linked to a very helpful explanation from Bishop Robert Vasa in which he said:
"Thus my reading of [Dignitas Personae] inclines me to conclude that parents may use these vaccines derived from cell lines of illicit origin but they should inquire about the availability of a more ethical alternative and they must make their objections known to the physician, to the health care system and to the FDA. Clearly, the use of these vaccines, while morally permissible, is not entirely morally neutral….
In reality, if everyone did this then one of two things would happen. The pharmaceutical companies would stop making the vaccine or they would begin to look seriously for alternatives that are not tied to abortion. Without our protest, however, these companies have no incentive to change their ways. They will continue to do evil that good may come from it; we will continue to receive the good they produce, and we will thus give moral and financial support to their heinous practices."
So there you have it. As faithful Catholics are we "allowed" to receive vaccinations derived from aborted fetal cells? According to various Bishops and the Pontifical Academy of Life: yes, "...the use of such vaccines is morally permissible because those vaccinated do not directly cooperate in producing the vaccine."  (Source.)

However, the Pontifical Academy of Life also "...stressed the “grave responsibility” to try to use alternative vaccines and to object to vaccines with “moral problems." (Source.)

Ultimately, it's up to us to carefully and prayerfully consider whether or not we can accept these vaccinations without compromising our beliefs and strongly held convictions, but regardless of whether or not we (or our children) receive these vaccinations deemed to have "moral problems," one thing is crystal clear: we can and should make our voices heard. 

Not only can we request ethical vaccinations when they do exist, but we also have a responsibility to make our objections known.

The first step is to educate ourselves. The Children of God For Life website makes it easy to quickly learn about the cell linings of vaccinations children receive (as recommended by the CDC) from birth to age 18. I printed a couple of their charts out and brought them with me to Gabriel's appointment yesterday - just in case I couldn't remember what to request and/or to show his pediatrician if necessary.
Source: Children of God For Life

In summary, these are 5 easy steps that we can and should take as pro-life individuals when it comes to vaccinations:
  1. Educate yourself about vaccinations. Learn which ones use aborted fetal cells and which of these have ethical alternatives available. The Children of God For Life and Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute websites are both great resources. You can print off user-friendly charts from their sites (including the one pictured above) with all the information you need.
  2. Request the ethical versions of vaccinations from your doctor - and make it known why you are doing so. Tell your physician, your health care system, and the FDA. Help put pressure on them to begin providing more ethical options!
  3. Donate money to this Ethical Vaccines campaign, found on the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute's website.
  4. Sign this petition to the FDA for ethical vaccines, found on the Children of God For Life website.
  5. Spread the word to others!

UPDATE (February 2015): In light of the recent measles outbreak in the U.S., there has been much discussion in the Catholic community on this topic. Listed below are some additional resources I recommend.
  • National Catholic Bioethics Center's FAQ on the use of vaccines
  • Measles Are Making a Comeback, So What Does the Church Teach About Vaccines? (Personally I think this is a helpful, pro-vaccination piece that discusses most of what I've written here...but it doesn't expand on this one, very important sentence: "The document goes on to say that Catholics should express their opposition to vaccines developed from aborted cells and that there is an obligation to use alternative vaccines, should they exist." Hopefully this is where what I've written can help you!)

"A very important thing to know is that Japan has approved vaccines against rubella and hepatitis A, which have been prepared without the use of human cells extracted from aborted fetuses. These vaccines represent a morally preferable alternative since they have not used cell lines of illicit origin, but they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and therefore are not readily available in the United States. This is why the Document, “Dignitas Personae,” has added: 'Everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.'"

-Bishop Robert Vasa


  1. I feel like vaccines have been the most overwhelming part of preparing for parenthood! That chart is super helpful; thanks for sharing it!

    1. No problem! I was so glad to have found that chart with the pro-life notations - I couldn't help but share it!

  2. OK, ignore my last comment! Just now catching up on things. I think I did know that about Pentacel now that you mention it. We have only had Pediarix though. Good information and good for you for paying attention!

    1. I think it's so great that where you work only offers the ethical combination shot! :)

  3. So glad you shared this, especially the chart. I saw your link over at Carrots for M. I've been enjoying your blog and reading about your beautiful family. :-)

    1. Thank you so much, Bobbi! I appreciate you taking the time to read about the vaccinations, too. Hopefully we can spread the word! :)

  4. I was under the impression that the unethical vaccines mentioned above are unethical because they were made with aborted fetal cells years ago, not that they are still making them with aborted babies (like the whole Pepsi fiasco). Am I wrong? I'm not trying to belittle the fact that these vaccines have a huge, immoral origin, but there is a difference between them continually making vaccines with aborted babies and using data that was derived from aborted babies years ago.

    I tried to find alternatives to the unethical vaccines as much as I could with my son, but we did decide to do the hepatitis A vaccines and the other ones with no moral alternative. However, if the vaccines were still being made with aborted baby cells, I would have probably decided to not vaccine in that case. But since we are so far removed from the instance where aborted babies were used, I felt slightly better in my decision to vaccinate my son.

    I'm not trying to be nick-picky here, just trying to be more precise, so other moms can make a more informed decision!

    And THANK YOU for those links! I've been trying to find a way to write to the companies, but was at a loss until now. God bless you for putting the word out there!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Katie! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.

      You raised some very interesting questions, and I must admit - I'm definitely no expert. When I was searching for information on the new (ethical!) flu vaccine I came across this article, which I think touches on what you mentioned about the aborted fetal cells from years ago:

      That article says,

      "Cell lines from two babies aborted in 1964 and 1970 have been used to create vaccinations for diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis, polio, rabies, chicken pox and smallpox. The production of vaccines from these aborted fetal cells drew condemnation from the Pontifical Academy of Life in 2005. Though the pontifical academy said the use of such vaccines is morally permissible because those vaccinated do not directly cooperate in producing the vaccine, it stressed the “grave responsibility” to try to use alternative vaccines and to object to vaccines with “moral problems.”"

      I guess I'm a little unclear as to whether or not these vaccines simply ORIGINATED from aborted fetal cells or are currently manufactures in this way - but my understanding was that they are still made this way to this day, which is largely why I (personally) feel it's important not to use such vaccines even if it has been deemed "morally permissible" because I feel incredibly uncomfortable receiving the result of immoral practices. I suppose each individual would have to make up their mind as to whether or not they feel okay with this or not - but I think the only way to get new ethical options we can feel 100% good about is for all of us to unite and say "this is not okay."

      Thank you again for your comment. If you can find any scientific literature further explaining all of this I would definitely love to read it!!! And thank you for being so supportive and encouraging. :)

  5. Wow, I had no idea about this! Thanks for sharing the chart!

  6. Thank you so much for the links! I've found this to be the most intimidating (and frustrating) thing to research as I get close to my due date. I'm also a proponent of vaccines in general, but want to make sure I'm not signing up for any unnecessary ones...if you don't mind me asking, why did you decide to go with the Hep-B vaccine? I've had various medical practitioners say that it's not necessary unless you're in certain situations (traveling later in life, employed by a hospital, the more obvious lifestyle choices that lead to hepatitis, etc.) Just curious to hear your thought process! :)

    1. You're welcome! It can definitely seem daunting so I'm glad I can help. Congratulations on your pregnancy! :)

      From what I've read, Hep-B is widely debated because some argue that it isn't necessary...but I guess at the end of the day I was okay with it because it has become such a common requirement for children to attend schools in certain places. Also, my husband's work could take us anywhere - even overseas - so I guess I felt like it was better to be safe than sorry. I've read of people having reactions to it, but according to what I've read most people don't have any issues (something like 1 in over a million have a severe reaction) and the most common side effects are just soreness or a mild fever (as is the case with most vaccines).

  7. Did your son continue to do well with the individual (DTaP, IPV/IPOL, and Hib shots), instead of the Pentacel, at his 4 and 6 mo appointments? Our pediatrician wouldn't accommodate our request for the individual shots, but I found a Catholic, pro-life family doctor who will. Not looking forward to my boy getting 3 shots instead of 1, BUT definitely want to honor God and life with this decision!

    1. Hi, Jill! Thanks for commenting. Yes, my son did well with the individual shots! I'm sure some of this is just his personality - because he only ever cried for about 10 seconds after getting all the shots and during one visit he didn't cry at all. I was impressed (and thankful) that we always had nurses administer all the shots very quickly/efficiently so it didn't take much longer than getting a combination shot.

      After his first round of shots I was better prepared and would always give him some baby Tylenol right before or after his appointment so he wouldn't wake up from a nap crying in pain or anything like that (which happened with his first shots). He always reacted just like any other baby commonly would - he would typically be a little more tired the next 24 hours and I'd give him some Tylenol if he had a slight fever or seemed to be in pain. I'm so glad you were able to find a doctor who will follow your wishes for your child(ren)!

    2. Thanks so much for the reply, Stephanie! So awesome to hear of some positive experiences! I've asked God to minimize the pain and to bless us for endeavoring to do His will. :)
      And yes, it took a while to find a doctor who would accommodate - but thankfully, I finally did!
      God bless you and your family!