In Part 1 and Part 1/ Take 2 of this series I established that multiple aborted babies have been used and continue to be used in vaccine research and development. In Part 2 we began to discuss the three moral obligations of the pro-life/pro-vaccine Christian in light of these facts.
The first of these is our responsibility to educate our brothers and sisters in Christ in order to make them aware that a moral and ethical dilemma does, in fact, exist. The magnitude of this responsibility cannot be understated since so very many pro-life/pro-vaccine Christians have been lulled into complacency by the misinformed, though well-intentioned, reassurances of beloved and trusted Christian sources.
In this final installment, we’ll discuss two more moral obligations: advocate for moral alternatives, and reject legislation that removes the religious exemption from vaccination.
Advocate for the Availability of Moral Vaccination Alternatives
As I pointed out in Part 2, moral vaccine alternatives exist for almost all of the vaccines on the current CDC recommended schedule (the one exception is chicken pox [varicella]). They just aren’t available in the US. However, since most of the recent vaccine uproar revolves around measles, let’s take a look at the MMR vaccine in particular.
The most common measles vaccine given is Merck’s MMR II, which is a trivalent vaccine. This means it is three vaccines in one: measles, mumps, and rubella. You can find a photo of the box that MMR II comes in on virtually any pharmaceutical supply company website via Google search. (For example: Med Plus Physician Supplies.)
On this box you will see that the rubella vaccine is the only portion of the trivalent vaccine that is manufactured using a human diploid cell line. (You can also find this information printed in the MMR II vaccine package insert.) What you may not know, is that this very same pharmaceutical company, Merck, used to manufacture monovalent measles and mumps vaccines which are morally licit since they are propagated in chick embryo cell cultures.
Unfortunately, the CDC informs us:
On October 21, 2009, Merck announced that based on input from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), professional societies, scientific leaders, and customers, Merck has decided not to resume production of ATTENUVAX (Measles Virus Vaccine Live), MUMPSVAX (Mumps Virus Vaccine Live), and MERVUVAX II (Rubella Virus Vaccine Live).
Why? The same source explains:
Receiving MMR vaccine rather than the separate component vaccines results in fewer shots and decreases the chance of delays in protection against all three diseases…
By the way, there is a very good morally licit rubella vaccine alternative available in Japan which you can read about in this 2016 PubMed study.
While the moral obligation for advocacy demanding that these alternatives be made available in the US is certainly a given, the form this advocacy takes may look very different depending on the individual. Some may decide to obtain a religious exemption from vaccination so that they can continue to allow their children to participate in public school while applying economic pressure to vaccine manufacturers to incentivize them to provide the moral alternatives.
What might this approach look like? Liveaction.org documents the efforts of Jason Hull, a staunchly pro-life/pro-vaccine parent who made an impassioned appeal to the FDA. Lamenting his two current options, financially supporting morally unacceptable products or rejecting vaccination, he implored the FDA to accommodate access to currently existing moral alternatives. When the FDA issued an unsatisfactorily evasive response, Hull replied with an economics lesson others can use as a road map to successful advocacy. Below is a screenshot of a portion of his response, which he made public over social media:
To be crystal clear: I am not suggesting that it is the moral obligation of all pro-life Christians to abstain from vaccination in order to provide financial incentive for alternatives. Not all may feel this conviction. However, one need not abstain to be effective in petitioning the FDA or Merck to show your support for making morally licit alternatives available. Can you imagine what could be accomplished if the vast numbers of pro-life/pro-vaccine individuals, who are currently silent on this issue, joined in unified chorus to demand these alternatives me made available?
This brings us to the final moral obligation:
Reject Legislation to Revoke the Religious Exemption from Vaccination
This is essentially a bare minimum measure I like to call: “if you don’t join the fight, at least don’t hinder it.”
Recently unprecedented, widespread legislation has been introduced across the United States to remove the religious exemption from vaccination. Multiple states have fallen victim: California, New York, and Maine to name a few. Again- the religious exemption is the only avenue for pro-life/pro-vaccine parents to apply economic pressure while still retaining the right to send their children to public school.
Unfortunately in my experience, some of the most vocally pro-life Christians are also the most likely to push this legislation. Worse yet, these are also some of the first to verbally attack, mock, and condemn conscientious objectors. I’ve personally been on the receiving end of this more times than I care to recall. It is so much of a problem, Rebecca Randall, science editor for Christianity Today, addresses it in her otherwise very pro-vaccine article under the section titled “A Christian Response.”
My own home state of Alabama, arguably one of the most recognized states for our pro-life stance, is a case study in this cognitive dissonance. Earlier this year Alabama attracted national attention by signing a total abortion ban into law, without exceptions for rape or incest. Almost simultaneously Republican legislators introduced HB 592 to revoke religious exemption from vaccination. Confronted with an unexpected outcry lodged by a relatively small group of dissenters, some confused legislators pulled their support, killing the bill. However, in an interview with a local news source, the bill’s sponsor voiced his intent to regroup and reintroduce the bill next year. It bears mentioning again- education on the moral dilemma inherent between these two stances is sorely needed.
I’m going to be very explicit: At minimum, pro-life/pro-vaccine individuals have the moral obligation to reject legislation that persecutes those in the fight for moral vaccines by holding the education of their children hostage.
I propose that pro-life Christians who wish to remain pro-vaccine have three moral obligations:
- Educate fellow pro-lifers about the ongoing use of aborted babies in vaccine research and development.
- Become an advocate for the availability of moral vaccine alternatives.
- Reject legislation that removes the religious exemption from vaccination.
In today’s political climate, these three have become inextricably intertwined.