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? LifeNews.com 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:
- 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.
- 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!
- Donate money to this Ethical Vaccines campaign, found on the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute's website.
- Sign this petition to the FDA for ethical vaccines, found on the Children of God For Life website.
- 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: "
"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