DEAR FATHER PAUL: There seems to be a lot of controversy and misinformation today about the safety of common vaccines, especially those for children. Some of my friends are telling me that it will be very dangerous to have my child vaccinated. I don’t want to either break the law or endanger my child. What do you say? Does the Bible address this issue? Bill.
DEAR BILL: First of all, most of the “anti-vaxx” propaganda is coming from social media sites like facebook and instagram! Sadly, a great deal of what is posted on social media is totally bogus … or, at best, grossly misleading, half truths written for gullible people by folks with an agenda and little medical / scientific qualifications or credentials.
One of my main rules in life is, “Don’t let anybody tell you what to think.”
While it is true that there are no Federal laws mandating vaccinations, even for children, all fifty states (since the early 1900’s) have enacted state laws requiring that all children be vaccinated against the most common childhood diseases before entering a public school. Most states (including Georgia) later added two “exemptions,” one for valid and documented religious reasons, and the second for valid and documented health (known allergic) reasons.
After the early days of vaccinations, things were fine for decades. The courts upheld state mandated childhood vaccination laws and many childhood diseases, such as polio and measles for example, became so rare as to become virtually non-existent. However, in the just past few years groups who say that they are “philosophically opposed” to legally mandated childhood vaccinations have been formed and have successfully lobbied in seventeen states for “philosophical exemptions.” They, through social media, have convinced many people that childhood, and even other types of vaccinations are ineffective and even dangerous … including even vaccines for polio, typhoid and the like.
The groups and individuals I mention have flooded the internet with dire warnings that vaccines contain poisonous metals that are causing the spike in autism, dementia and sterility to name just a few.
These claims are of course phony and have no scientific basis. They utilize fear, lack of knowledge and today’s wild conspiracy theory mentality to dupe well meaning and caring parents into needlessly putting their precious children at the risk of possible life long effects from childhood diseases that vaccinations have all but eliminated. Case in point … there is now a near epidemic of childhood measles among unvaccinated children in the state of Washington.
So who are these anti-vaccinators so eager to put our children at risk? Well, just last week Fox News ran a story exposing some of them. The reporter raised the strong likelihood that many of the “anti-vaxx” groups are secretly sponsored and funded by Russia. Seriously? Yes! Why? To sow even more discord and division in our country, said Fox. As if we need more discord.
Facebook must have been watching Fox. They have since announced that they are pulling the plug on most of these groups. Good. One lifelong deaf child as a result of his / her parents well meaning mistake is one child too many in my opinion.
Do children and adults sometime in fact have adverse reactions from vaccines? Of course they do, but the overwhelming number of adverse reactions amount to only a mild fever for a couple of days or a little soreness at the vaccination site. Last October my doctor told me my arm would be a little sore for a few days when I had my flu vaccination. She was right. But six months later … my soreness is just a distant memory, and I’ve had NO FLU!
The truth is that all medications – every single one, including aspirin – have at least some side effects. Just listen to the endless TV ads for prescription medications. Right after the pictures of happy people who have gotten complete relief, a voice comes on and rapidly reads a long list of possible side effects. But the truth is that people seriously and permanently affected is miniscule.
Statistics from the CDC and the WHO have proven that the measles vaccine, for one, produces only one serious (but recoverable) adverse reaction out of one million vaccinations … and polio, one adverse reaction out of two to three million vaccinations. A child is more likely to get hit on the head by a meteor than die from a vaccination of any kind. Interestingly, the possibility of childhood autism from the “dangerous” measles vaccine has been totally debunked in every single study conducted by a number of the nations leading research hospitals including John’s Hopkins.
Finally, mandatory vaccinations are only one of many things that our government can and does quite legally “require” of its citizens. Others are serving on a jury, registering before voting, airport screening, submitting an annual income tax form, driving with auto insurance, registering for the military draft and so on.
So does the Bible address this question?
Yes, it does. Jesus is recorded as saying as much in Matthew 22:21 (King James Version) “Render to Caesar (the government) the things that are Caesars, and to God, the things that are God’s.” And Romans 13:1 (New Living Translation) says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”
Father Paul Massey is Canon to the Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. firstname.lastname@example.org