I get annoyed when people say they don’t vaccinate their kids. I don’t think they are stupid or ignorant, but I do wonder why they’d make that choice. However, it’s not simply not vaccinating kids that bothers me. There are people whom I love dearly who may never vaccinate their children. It hurts me that I haven’t found a way to encourage them to let go of the fear, or suspicion, or whatever it is that keeps them from doing it, but I am not going to let go of those people as a friend. It’s not the not vaccinating that makes me angry, though that choice is on the wrong side of the risk equation. What makes me angry is the lying.
There are people who lie to me about vaccines because they’ve gotten information from some prominent person whose celebrity is built up on their willingness to misrepresent the purported harms of vaccination. I see board-certified doctors perpetuating confusion– not clearing up but rather confusing simple issues– in order to have their followers confused about vaccination and vaccine preventable disease. These doctors answer legitimate questions about safety with ambiguity and head-patting: “whatever you think is best. You’re the parent.”
I see politicians who can appeal to the streak of suspicion that many of us have about the government, and who can leverage that against a worried parent until it feels like there’s no one to trust on this topic except, maybe, that same parent-oriented doctor who won’t advocate for the choice that really, truly helps the child, which is undeniably vaccination. Instead, that doctor will advocate for the parent’s right to feel comfortable in whatever choice they make, regardless of where they’ve gotten their information, and regardless of how well they’ve understood it. Politicians and celebrity doctors are telling us it’s great to put our egos and our fears before the health of our children. That makes me angry.
Then there are the stories that we make up to say this is actually better for the child. I comforted myself with lies when I chose not to vaccinate. I said my unvaccinated child was healthier because he wasn’t vaccinated. I said it was those people who vaccinate that were causing more problems with stronger, mutant viruses that would eventually become resistant to vaccines. I believed things that were made up, or based on wild speculation, rather than using a conservative, reasoned assessment of the available science.
Not vaccinating children upsets me, because vaccines are such a safe way to protect children from sometimes serious diseases. Vaccines are safe for people without contraindications. The risks of vaccines are understood and there is ongoing research in vaccine development that will make vaccines even safer. Even in admitting that vaccines can be made safer, they are already far, far safer than infection from the wild virus or bacteria. This preventive medicine has been used for a very long time because it works. Over the years, the technology has become masterfully precise in stimulating immunity without causing illness.
Lying about vaccines, and government conspiracies involving vaccines, is what make me angry, not just upset. We can have a discussion about vaccination even if you disagree with the practice, but if your position involves conspiracies about corruption, bought out politicians, or adulterated vaccines, and you don’t have evidence to support what you’re saying, then you’re bearing false witness and stoking fear. It’s not just me who finds that kind of behavior objectionable. It goes against Christian morals and even secular ethics. It’s wrong.
To me, the vaccination issue is an issue of life. As a steward over my children, I am called to protect their lives diligently, not just passively. Diligence means seeking out ways to make them safe while serving Him. I won’t lock them away and try to protect them from every danger in life, because that would interfere with our ability to serve God as a family. However, something simple, like vaccinating them against disease, does nothing to hinder our service, and in fact opens up possibilities for us to do more with less risk of harm to ourselves or others. It is not about being sequestered away and protected from all risk, but simply protecting our kids from unnecessary risks that do not serve Him.
On this point I am reminded of the unvaccinated Amish missionaries who went to the Phillipines and brought measles home to their community last year. They created a relatively large outbreak that was finally ended about 3 months after the initial infection, because over 8000 people in the community rushed to vaccination clinics to receive the MMR. The missionaries’ intent was to serve God. Was the outcome of 350+ persons infected with measles, and postponed community worship services, really worth it? Vaccination was a simple way that their service trip could have served him to the fullest, without putting others in danger.
When the confusion and ambiguity and wild suspicion is whittled away, it is clear that vaccination is effective and safe. Vaccines prevent disease. Vaccination enables healthier lives. There are fears that arise in us, especially those of us who have heard stories of vaccine injury. Some of us may be tempted to saturate ourselves in those stories, with what I’d warn could be a kind of morbid lust, such that demands a a Christian truly examine their motives. Reading horror stories is not the same as extending compassion to those who have been hurt. We need to set aside these fears and set aside our egos, and look with clarity at the issue at hand. A prayerful decision needs to be made for the health of our children, with their future service to the Lord in mind, should they follow the Christian way.