Vaccines Redux

DISCLAIMER: I'm going to be talking about vaccines in this post. A lot. If you are sick of the whole vaccine debate, please feel free to skip this post and instead enjoy this meme in honor of the forthcoming To Kill A Mockingbird sequel (SQUEEEE!):



Now, for those of you who have stuck around...

My latest post at Catholic Stand, Let's Be Reasonable About Vaccines, was well received, but sadly I don't think the people for whom it was meant are taking the message to heart. And some people are accusing both me and Catholic Stand of being "anti-vaccine" or "encouraging people not to vaccinate." They claim to have read the piece but I have to doubt that, given that it says the exact opposite. I even put it in bold and all caps so there would be no doubt whatsoever. Maybe I should have made a cat meme instead? I don't know. At any rate, here are further thoughts of mine for the two or three people who aren't yet sick to death of this topic.

The Moral Question

I had a word limit on my CS post (1500 words max) so I couldn't put in all of the information I wanted to. But I'm getting a lot of comments along the lines of, "It was ONE ABORTION 50 years ago! One! How can you weigh that against the threat to children?!" 

First off, it was more than one abortion. Many more. For those who need proof of how these cell lines were created, see pages 81 and 91 of this document for testimony from Dr. Alex Van Der Eb, the scientist who developed the stem cell lines HEK-23 and PER.C6 (italics mine) This quote is from page 91, where Dr. Van Der Eb is talking about his PER.C6: 
So I isolated retina [cells] from a fetus, from a healthy fetus as far as could be seen, of 18 weeks old. There was nothing special in the family history, or the pregnancy was completely normal up to the 18 weeks, and it turned out to be a socially indicated abortus, abortus provocatus, and that was simply because the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus.
Then there is this article from 1969 about the creation of the rubella vaccine:
Explant cultures were made of the dissected organs of a particular fetus aborted because of rubella, the 27th in our series of fetuses aborted during the 1964 epidemic. 
Chilling how casually this is discussed in the medical literature, isn't it? "the 27th in our series of fetuses aborted..." "socially indicated abortus... simply because the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus." 

And yet I am supposed to hail these vaccines as God's gift to humankind. These vaccines were built upon the backs of murdered children and that is something we should never forget. We MUST protest this atrocity. Scientific research can provide great boons to humankind but we can't throw our morality out the window in the process. Surely scientists can procure ethical sources for the human tissue samples they need to conduct such research. 

Putting aside the fact that "Won't somebody please think of the children?!" does not dispense us of our obligation to engage in moral reasoning, one of my most serious objections to these unethically-sourced vaccines is the fact that this type of research, creating and sustaining cell lines derived from the cells of aborted fetuses, is still going on. For example, attempts to create an HIV or Ebola vaccine utilize these unethically-derived stem cell lines (specifically, the HEK-293 and PER.C6 lines). These scientists don't HAVE to use these cell lines; there are ethical ones available -- lines that are in use by other organizations also trying to create a vaccine. 

Debi Vinnedge of Children of God for Life wrote to the FDA expressing her concern about the use of these unethical stem cell lines, and in their response (in which they basically said, "So what?") they were several factual errors. She pointed out these errors in a second letter but, as of yet, there is no response. 

I quoted the article Immunity from Evil?: Vaccines Derived from Abortion by Dr. Jameson Taylor in my CS article, but here are some excerpts I didn't have room to include: 
The bishops were forced to address the question [of vaccines] when President Bush used the abortion-tainted chicken pox vaccine to justify federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
and
Using abortion-tainted vaccines encourages abortion just as does purchasing any other product derived from fetal tissue. Indeed, these vaccines were the first fetal tissue therapies to gain widespread acceptance, and their popularity is frequently cited to promote fetal tissue research agendas. Over the past 10 years, numerous congressmen have referred to the vaccines to garner support for federally subsidized research on fetal tissue. The University of Nebraska likewise excused its fetal tissue program by invoking both the vaccines and the Church's toleration of their use. In Forbes v. Napolitano (2001), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals used the polio vaccine, among other things, to strike down an Arizona law banning experimentation on aborted fetal tissue. The court specifically ruled fetal tissue research must be legal to guarantee women the fullest possible range of "reproductive decisions." [bolding mine]
So, this is going to keep happening until those responsible for creating and manufacturing vaccines decide not to use them anymore, or they decide to make ethical alternatives available. My problem is, as I stated in my article, they have no incentive to do so if everyone just uses the unethically-sourced ones anyway.

I wish all of the Catholics (and others) who have called me names and accused me of wanting to kill children would take the time they use to abuse me and instead spend it writing letters of protest to Merck et al. As Phil Lawler pointed out in his article, Conscientious Objection to Vaccinations (bolding mine):
This is not a call for passive acceptance of the vaccines derived from fetal remains. (And by the way, chicken-pox vaccine falls into that category as well.) It is a clear call for action to remedy an injustice. If Catholics mobilized to demand ethical vaccines, the pharmaceutical industry would be forced to respond. If Catholics are content to say that they can be justified in using these vaccines, the injustice will continue.
We can't simply say, "The Vatican has said these vaccines are licit to use. If you object to them you're being scrupulous." We have a duty to object to them even if we use them, and having serious moral reservations about their use is not being scrupulous per the document itself, which acknowledges that the creation and use of the vaccines pose ethical problems.

Also, I saw this article just as I was about to hit "Publish" on this post, and it's excellent. The Pontifical Academy for Life did NOT argue it is morally obligatory to use tainted vaccines. As the author, Dr. Jeff Mirus, said in the combox, "Please, everyone, note this principle: While cooperation with evil is sometimes permissible, it can NEVER be mandatory!"

That Being Said

Despite my moral objection I am considering having Peter (and perhaps the other kids as well) vaccinated with the MMR. I'm still not convinced that the risk (9 confirmed cases in my state of 6.6 million people) is worth the hysteria, but I see the logic of the argument that measles is a very contagious disease, and by the time the outbreak is serious it could be too late to vaccinate (due to supply and demand issues with the vaccine).

Also, Peter visits Phoenix Children's Hospital once every 3-4 months due to his clubfoot, so he is in greater proximity to the immunocompromised (or those who may be carrying the measles virus, if they are at the hospital for treatment) than the other kids. (Generally I take time off work on a weekday to take him to his appointments; the other kids don't come with us.)

I also read this on the CDC website: "For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it."

You know what the United States incidence of clubfoot is? One in 1,000.

Yeah. When you've already won the lottery in that regard, so to speak, it makes you think.

Principle of Double Effect

Recently I've been mulling over if the Principle of Double Effect would apply in this instance.

1. The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent. It is morally good, or at least morally neutral, to vaccinate people against serious illness.

2. The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary. I don't will the bad effect (promotion of abortion) and right now there is no way for me to procure ethically-sourced vaccines (i.e., attain the good effect without the bad effect).

3. The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed. The abortions themselves are not what cause the vaccines to be effective. The abortions themselves didn't produce the vaccines - it was research on the tissue taken from the baby that created the vaccine, not the abortion itself. Nor were the abortions performed for the explicit purpose of making a vaccine (although they may have been encouraged, which seems likely, especially in the case of the 27 abortions performed due to rubella exposure. We really have no way of knowing).

4. The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect. The Pontifical Academy for Life stated in their document that the danger of disease was an acceptably proportionate reason to allow the remote material cooperation with evil.

Seems to me double effect would indeed apply here, which goes a ways toward assuaging my conscience, but I might hunt up an actual Catholic moral theologian and get their take on it.

So, that's where I'm at.

Note: Since this is my personal blog (unlike Catholic Stand), I'm going to delete comments at my discretion. If you can't say anything charitable, don't say anything at all. 

Comments

  1. Hey, JoAnna. Just my 2 cents, which I hope you can trust as logical. As far as the scientific research and development of the vaccine go, what's done is done. And I know that you have done your research with a true heart. The only question that remains is how do I minimize the risk to my kids and to others? I hear your heart, and I also see the reasoning of getting the vaccinations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. whooops- left off:
    I think the time to make the political statement is separate from obtaining the vaccination at this time, for reasons that you've outlined (that you agree with) above.

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  3. Nubby- I live in Ontario which has a super low rate of vaccination, but one of their rules for school attendance is should you have a case at the school, you are required to keep your child at home during the incubation period (21 days). They will notify you about it. So that's one way.

    As for the political, yes I agree being political is separate from whether you get the vaccine or not since that's a matter of prudence. All Catholics are asked to protest the cell lines just like they would embryonic stem cell research. The problem is that until very recently very few people protested openly. It's not brought up at the pulpit, among Catholic families, or even pro-life groups. When I found out about it, it was from a minor comment at the bottom of an unrelated blog post dated years before. I thought that it might be one of those exaggerations so I looked into and was floored. I heard more about protesting those with Susan G Komen stickers on their products than I did about what I was injecting into my family's arm.

    If anything this whole thing is stirring people up. There's that whole petition to Merk. But really we need to spur a letter writing campaign and we need to find leaders to rally the troops. This isn't just an American thing. This affects millions of people across the globe. So we need letters to all countries' CDC equivalents.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't disagree, Deltaflute.
    My only point was to separate the two ideas because there seems to be a lot of over-thinking going on when I read about vaccinations. God is a God of peace, so when the decision becomes burdensome like it has for JoAnna, I try to see what's the clearest way to compartmentalize the thinking.

    Getting the vaccination is wise. Attacking politically is wise, too (and a must). To feel overwhelmed with the approach is the part that I believe is not of God. My two cents ...

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  5. Thank you for this! Your well- written thoughts have been so encouraging! Bless you !

    ReplyDelete

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