We’ll be talking about vaccination on the radio today

We’ll be talking about vaccination on the radio today February 2, 2015

here. Join me and my Monday co-host Simcha Fisher today on “Connecting the Dots” as we discuss the morality, responsibility and common sense of vaccination with Catholic pediatrician and immunology specialist Dan Conway.  Join the conversation with your questions and comments by calling in at 1-855-949-1380.

I was inspired to do this when I naively pointed out the Church’s teaching on vaccines derived from fetal tissues.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), along with the Pontifical Academy for Life — a Vatican body established to provide information about issues in law and biomedicine — have studied the moral issues surrounding vaccines and have determined that it is morally licit, and even morally responsible, for Catholics to use even those vaccines developed from aborted fetus cells.

Bottom line, the method of deriving the vaccines is immoral, but it remains licit for parents to use them because it is remote material cooperation with evil and the good of vaccinating those at risk outweighs this. Foolished, I thought this would relieve consciences. I still childishly imagine that Catholics who claim to believe the Church’s guidance on faith and morals will listen to the Church’s guidance on faith and morals.  But alas, many people who claim this merely mean they cannibalize the Church’s teaching in order to accessorize the opinion of their MEgesterium.  So instead of listening to the Church’s common sense, my comboxes swelled up and burst (1173 comments and counting) with an epic argument between people bound and determined to ignore the Church’s guidance and those trying to point out the bleedin’ obvious fact that you should vaccinate your family not only for their safety but because herd immunity protects the immunocompromised and those who, for whatever reason, cannot get vaccinated.

So, having a radio show, I decided “Why not use a bit of mass media to hear from a Catholic pediatrician with expertise in immunology to counter the life-threatening rubbish?”  Please listen in to hear from a Catholic who is both faithful to the Magisterium *and* an actual expert on the medical issues in play?  Click on the link above at 5 PM Eastern today and feel free to join the conversation on why it is *morally responsible* to vaccinate, not only for the health of your family but for thousands of the very young, very old, and immunocompromised.

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  • Cypressclimber

    On the moral issues involved, you get it exactly right. That is not to dismiss the wrongness of destroying unborn children, and using their remains for experimentation. It’s the matter of the remoteness of one’s cooperation, and the problem of what to do when an alternative is lacking (i.e., a vaccine without immoral research behind it). The analogy I might offer would be if you and your family are stranded in the desert, desperate for water. Someone comes along, and offers you water; only she reveals it was stolen in an armed robbery, in which someone died, an hour before. Do you take the water? Does your taking the water implicate you in the crimes that person committed? The answers are the same: you can take the water, without being complicit in the crimes.

    Here’s a question that interests me about this whole vaccination issue. Is there really anything to the claims made by some that vaccines are harmful? I am very dubious about that; but I can imagine some people I know buying into that.

    • Cypressclimber

      Oops — I looked more closely at the CNA article; it addresses my question, albeit briefly.

    • oara27

      Other than potential allergic reactions to the vaccine’s delivery fluid, which are extremely unlikely, especially if the patient is aware and informs the provider about the allergy, vaccines are absolutely the best cost/benefit medical procedure ever devised.

      Just consider the millions of people who suffered and died of smallpox before it was eradicated in the late XX century. The same applies to polio. All the stuff about connections to autism, etc. is nonsense. Here is a believable authoritative web site, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health


      • Stacy Forsythe

        Precisely. Yes, in a rare but nonzero number of cases, some aspect of the vaccine will interact badly with a particular person’s body, resulting in anything from temporary discomfort (the most common reaction by far) to lasting disability or even death. We must not ignore or belittle the people who suffer such reactions and their loved ones, but work to reduce the incidence of such reactions as much as possible and do whatever we can for those who are affected. We must, however, consider also the far larger number of cases in which lives are saved or lasting disability averted because vaccines exist and are widespread. Just as some people die in plane crashes and considerably more in car crashes, but we don’t denounce air or road travel because the vast majority of the time everyone gets where they’re going with no incident and our lives in general are thereby improved.

        That’s why the anti-vaccine spokespeople who really burn me up are not moms trepidatious for their kids or people who have received bad information, but the folks who actually deny the benefits of immunization altogether, claiming that vaccines don’t actually do anything or that they are slowly poisoning us or (my “favorite”) that we didn’t really get rid of polio but just renamed it.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      There are documented adverse reactions to vaccines, though they are very rare. I have a friend who developed a severe, painful autoimmune issue as a result of the hepatitis vaccine she was give in high school–she and several others all received a settlement from the company because of it. It’s a debate I generally steer clear of, since it gets very messy very fast.

    • dart

      Yes, for some small percentage of the population, the vaccine can cause an adverse reaction. And some parents whose kids fall into that population will cry loudly on the internet and people will heed them and the cycle continues. On the same token, some people will be killed in a car wreck because the seatbelt that was designed to save their life actually became a contributing cause of their death. Are we going to stop buckling our kids and ourselves?

    • B

      As the mom of a child who experienced a moderate-severe reaction, let me be clear: PLEASE VAX YOUR KIDS! It helps the rest of the herd in regard to immunity. All my other kids are fully faxed for this reason.

  • Just finished listening to the program. I wish I had been able to hear it in its entirety but its really early here in the Philippines.
    You sound exactly like I expected, but I can’t say the same for Simcha.

  • JM1001

    The moral questions raised here remind me of the episode “Nothing Human” of Star Trek: Voyager that I re-watched recently. Interesting issue…

  • iamlucky13

    Is this the Vatican document you’re referring to?

    I’ve actually had this open in a browser window for about 2 weeks now, because I’ve been intending the take the time to read it with the care its format requires. From a quick skim, it seems to say it can be allowed…

    …but with the very specific qualifier that this is because the vaccine line was developed from two specific abortions that can’t be taken back now, but that we should use licitly derived vaccines whenever they exist, but that we also have an obligation to be clear about our objection to the way the vaccines were originally created, and that we should promote and use if it comes available, a vaccine derived from a licit means so that we are not committing passive material cooperation.

    It’s very far from a ringing endorsement. Really, it’s more of, “it is licit to use the measles vaccine only because it’s not within your personal ability to make an alternative that is not the product of a heinous crime.”

    • Stacy Forsythe

      I do think the “two specific abortions that can’t be taken back now” is an important element that is often forgotten. “Derived from aborted fetal tissue” makes it sound as though the vaccines are literally made out of dead babies and implies that babies keep being killed to provide new vaccine. In fact we are looking at a cell line derived from children whose deaths, while horrible, did not occur for the purpose of producing a vaccine and presumably would have happened anyway by the unfortunate choice of their mothers. If an older murdered child’s organs are donated, those whose lives are thereby saved or improved are not participants in the original crime, but beneficiaries of good that was brought forth from evil.

  • pburg

    It is a matter of conscience. The Vatican committee was clear about that. They wrote it is “at least” a material, remote cooperation. It was not pronounced that the good outweighs the evil but that, in certain circumstances, it could be morally obligatory (for instance, immediate and clear danger).

    The degree to which the disease is contagious and how devastating it is needs to be put into account. The pontifical council for life calls not providing an ethical alternative (which does exist) coercion. What adds to the complexity is that it is the Rubella (not the measles) vaccine which is unethically derived. In the past the rubella vaccine could be separated from the Measles, that is no longer an option.

    • chezami

      You are lying. The Church says there is a moral responsibility to vaccinate. Stop lying.

      • By “there is a moral responsibility” do you mean that there is a moral imperative? If so, I think you are overinterpreting the text.

        As I read it, “it is morally licit, and even morally responsible,” does not imply that it is morally imperative. It seems to say that vaccinating is morally permissible, even prudent, but it does not say that it is morally required.

        Now, I agree with you that vaccinating is in 99.9% of cases the prudent thing to do, and therefore should be done when possible, and should not be omitted without serious reasons. Pburg may be wrong, but it doesn’t look like he is lying.

  • Rob B.

    I hope this went well, Mr. Shea. Is there a place where you archive your shows? I should like to hear what happened.

  • Vijay

    Mark, you do a huge disservice by hinting at what the Church teaches but not going over it in detail. Perhaps you do so on the radio show. I wish you would also do so on your blog. As a scientist and educator I have always taught, encouraged and promoted vaccination because it works.

    However when I read your post above, I was shocked to learn that a few vaccines were made from aborted fetal cells. This was news to me, a trained immunologist but whose research focus is not in vaccines. Your comments above certainly did not clarify the matter. So I went hunting for the original Vatican article which is here: http://www.immunize.org/concerns/vaticandocument.htm

    Basically if I am correct, the Church says that when the moral responsibility to vaccinate outweighs the concern about the origin of the vaccine, the faithful are obligated to vaccinate as in the case of the German measles, since this would be a form of remote material cooperation as you mention above. However this must only be done on a temporary basis with the full intention of the faithful to put pressure on those who formally cooperate in the making of these vaccines such as Pharmaceutical companies. Thus we also have a moral obligation to demand that alternative vaccines be produced that do not rely on the growth of viral cells in aborted fetal tissue. I think this is the conversation that needs to be clarified in the minds of the Catholic and Christian faithful.