July 1, 2019
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17)
LISTEN TO THE ABRIDGED PODCAST VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE ON THE VERY, VERY, QUITE CONTRARY PODCAST.
Views expressed in this article are not medical advice. This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare provider for medical advice.
Few subjects cause more controversy than vaccination – even in the church. While some church leaders have stepped out in support of vaccination, voices of opposition or concern are often ignored on the basis that “the science is settled.”
Such a complex issue warrants further discussion among believers and non-believers alike. However, regardless of where you land on the topic of vaccination, the body of Christ should publicly support the religious freedoms that allow Christians to live in accordance with the guiding of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The freedom to opt out of all or some vaccines is one such issue.
My hope is that by the end of this response, four things will be clear:
1) that the issue is far from settled – the scientific consensus is not unanimous
2) moral culpability for infectious disease does not rely in the hands of the non-vaccinator
3) skepticism towards vaccine manufacturers and regulatory agencies is warranted
4) we all want health and safety, but we may just have a different understanding of how these goals are best reached.
Note: While this post began as a response to The Gospel Coalition’s (TGC) article on vaccination, it is relevant to all Christ followers.
What is immunity? Is there a difference between vaccine-induced immunity and naturally-acquired immunity?
In discussing immunity, it’s important that we differentiate between naturally-acquired immunity (which is acquired after encountering the disease or infection in nature) and vaccine-induced (or “artificial”) immunity – more accurately, antibody production. Since measles is the talk of the town as of late, let’s use it as an example.
Naturally-Acquired Immunity: Children contract measles when the immune system is mature and strong. This natural infection provides lifetime immunity and protection. Newborns are protected through passive immunity via the placenta and breast milk from their naturally immune mothers. The most vulnerable populations are protected – infants via their mothers, and adults/elderly via their own lifelong immunity.
Vaccine-Induced “Immunity”: This is more accurately, vaccine-induced antibody production. Children are vaccinated and the immune system is unnaturally provoked in order to produce antibodies, skipping the cell-mediated response that is present in natural infection. Antibodies will wane by adulthood (if produced at all) and mothers have no immunity to pass on. Newborns and infants are left unprotected against infection. Adults and elderly are also left unprotected, as their antibodies have waned.
It should also be noted that the term “herd immunity” was first used in 1933 in reference to the natural immunity described above. More on this later.
Did vaccines save the world?
The most powerful and effective methods of reducing disease include water treatment, proper sanitation, and nutrition. The contribution of medical measures to a decrease in mortality in the twentieth century is questionable:
In general, medical measures (both chemotherapeutic and prophylactic) appear to have contributed little to the overall decline in mortality in the United States since about 1900 – having in many instances been introduced several decades after a marked decline had already set in and having no detectable influence in most instances. More specifically, with references to those five conditions (influenza, pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough, and poliomyelitis) for which the decline in mortality appears substantial after the point of intervention – and on the unlikely assumption that all of this decline is attributable to the intervention – it is estimated that at most 3.5 percent of the total decline in mortality since 1900 could be ascribed to medical measures introduced for the diseases considered here.
Do vaccines prevent a certain degree of measles infection? Yes. But the mortality rate for the illness had already declined by 98% in the United States prior to the introduction of the vaccine. The question now becomes, “What is the cost of artificially reducing infection?” As noted in the section on immunity above, in the absence of natural immunity, one such consequence is the displacement of susceptibility to measles infection onto the most vulnerable populations. Additionally, our preference to artificial immunity is creating a “virgin soil population” vulnerable to the mutating viruses that are produced by selective genetic pressure (caused by vaccination).
The vaccination program has also done a disservice to the very population it claims to protect – the immune compromised. How so? We used to have ample donations of IVIG for antibodies against measles for those with primary immunodeficiency. Over time, donors no longer produce adequate antibodies against measles. The vaccinated population does not meet FDA requirements for neutralizing antibodies against measles. Giving boosters resulted in doubling of the antibody titer, but it still doesn’t meet requirements. Within approximately 100 days, antibody levels revert back to baseline. (See below image from the linked study.)
What are the risks of vaccination? Can we make an accurate risk/benefit assessment with the data available?
The limited data available makes risk/benefit assessment difficult, to say the least. There are many reasons for this, but I will go into detail regarding three of them below.
Risks are underreported.
The risks of vaccination are severely underreported and no efforts have been made to encourage reporting. The CDC themselves abandoned a project which set out to determine the accuracy of VAERS reporting. It was discovered that only an estimated 1% of reactions were being reported. That is a staggering disparity which does not support the often claimed “one in a million” reaction rate.
You can find this direct quote from the report on page 6: “Likewise, fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported. Low reporting rates preclude or slow the identification of ‘problem’ drugs and vaccines that endanger public health. New surveillance methods for drug and vaccine adverse effects are needed.”
Clinical trial data is limited.
Vaccine clinical trials are often limited in not only the number of participants, but in the amount of time said participants are followed for observation.
According to the MMR Vaccine Risk Statement from Physicians for Informed Consent, “Since measles is fatal in about 1 in 10,000 cases and results in permanent injury in about 1 in 80,000 cases, a few thousand subjects in clinical trials are not enough to prove that the MMR vaccine causes less death and permanent injury than measles.”
Additionally, the MMRII vaccine insert states, “M-M-R II vaccine has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or potential to impair fertility.” Surely, these are valid concerns that should be addressed prior to vaccine licensure and promotion?
Participants in clinical trials for the Engerix (Hepatitis B) vaccine were followed for a mere 4 days post-administration. This is not ample time to observe latent vaccine reactions, such as autoimmune conditions.
Clinical trials are not based on inert placebo testing.
Inert placebos have not been used in any vaccine clinical trials (with the exception of Gardasil-9 in which 306 individuals received a saline injection after three shots of Gardasil). Trials frequently rely on other vaccines or adjuvants as “placebos.”
HHS confirms, the “gold standard” for testing interventions in people is the “randomized, placebo-controlled” clinical trial. As defined by the CDC, a “placebo” is: “A substance or treatment that has no effect on human beings.” Ironically, HHS claims that using an inert, saline placebo in vaccine trials would be unethical, yet it is impossible to evaluate the true risk of a procedure without an inert placebo. Isn’t that unethical?
What is herd immunity and how does it apply?
It is commonly reported that we need to maintain a 95% herd immunity threshold in order to protect the immune compromised. This threshold is a mathematical theory that has never been tested. In fact, we can see how it doesn’t hold true with China as an example:
“The reported coverage of the measles–rubella (MR) or measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine is greater than 99.0% in Zhejiang province. However, the incidence of measles, mumps, and rubella remains high.“
A similar instance occurred in Quebec in 2011 when there was a measles outbreak with over 725 cases… and a 95-97% vaccination rate.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, retired Neurosurgeon, explains:
“In the original description of herd immunity, the protection to the population at large occurred only if people contracted the infections naturally. The reason for this is that naturally-acquired immunity lasts for a lifetime. The vaccine proponents quickly latched onto this concept and applied it to vaccine-induced immunity. But, there was one major problem – vaccine-induced immunity lasted for only a relatively short period, from 2 to 10 years at most, and then this applies only to humoral immunity. This is why they began, silently, to suggest boosters for most vaccines, even the common childhood infections such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella.
When I was in medical school, we were taught that all of the childhood vaccines lasted a lifetime. This thinking existed for over 70 years. It was not until relatively recently that it was discovered that most of these vaccines lost their effectiveness 2 to 10 years after being given. What this means is that at least half the population, that is the baby boomers, have had no vaccine-induced immunity against any of these diseases for which they had been vaccinated very early in life. In essence, at least 50% or more of the population was unprotected for decades.“
The assumptions presented in the theory of “herd immunity” also leave out two important facts:
Have vaccines been thoroughly investigated as a cause for autism?
This is likely one of the most heated debates within the vaccine discussion, and rightfully so, as there is a lot of data that is often overlooked in the media.
However, Sharyl Attkisson and The Full Measure staff recently aired a segment that the rest of mainstream media wouldn’t touch: A renowned pro-vaccine pediatric neurologist specializing in autism, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman (and other experts featured in the segment) agree that vaccines can and do cause autism in some children. Dr. Zimmerman was the top expert defending vaccines on behalf of the US Government in the Federal Vaccine Court, and he says “he told the government that vaccines can cause autism in ‘exceptional’ cases, but says the government hid the information and misrepresented his opinion.”
Per his affidavit, he stated, “I explained [to DOJ attorneys] that I was of the opinion that there were exceptions in which vaccines can and do cause autism… I explained that in a subset of children, vaccine induced fever and immune stimulation did cause regressive brain disease with features of autism spectrum disorder.”
The CDC references a 2011 IOM report on their page titled, “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” However, in that very report, the IOM states, “The evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between diphtheria toxoid–, tetanus toxoid–, or acellular pertussis–containing vaccine and autism.”
In 2014, William Thompson, came forward as a whistleblower to admit that a 2004 study led by Frank Destefano (author of the 2013 study shared in the original TGC article) was fraudulent, disguising the fact that incidence of autism was three and a half times higher in African Americans vaccinated with MMR before 36 months. He states:
“I regret that my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in ‘Pediatrics.’ The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding the findings of the report… I believe the final study protocol was not followed.”
Dr. William Thompson states that he and his co-authors met to destroy documents relating to this study. Congressman Posey has implored Congress to subpoena Thompson, but this still has not taken place.
Lastly, it is important to note that only one ingredient (Thimerosal) and one vaccine (MMR) have been investigated for a link to autism. David Kirby, former NYT investigative journalist and award-winning author of Evidence of Harm, explains:
“To begin with, it is unscientific and perilously misleading for anyone to assert that ‘vaccines and autism’ have been studied and that no link has been found. That’s because the 16 or so studies constantly cited by critics of the hypothesis have examined just one vaccine and one vaccine ingredient.… It is illogical to exonerate all vaccines, all vaccine ingredients, and the total US vaccine program as a whole, based solely on a handful of epidemiological studies of just one vaccine and one vaccine ingredient. It is akin to claiming that every form of animal protein is beneficial to people, when all you have studied is fish.“
Note: Kirby’s article has since been removed, citing “public health” concerns. Censorship much?
For further reading on vaccine-autism science and politics, I recommend JB Handley’s book, How to End the Autism Epidemic.
Who is Andy Wakefield, really?
This post would be incomplete if I didn’t address the Andy – I mean, elephant – in the room: Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Here are the facts for the discerning reader.
In the infamous study (now retracted – see below), the authors wrote, “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.” I guess the media never actually read the study (hence the repeated misrepresentation).
The GMC convicted two of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Dr. John Walker-Smith, of professional misconduct. Almost all the charges filed against Wakefield and Walker-Smith were the same. Dr. Walker-Smith was able to get funding to appeal his conviction. After thorough review, a British court completely overturned the GMC’s ruling, stating: “The panel’s overall conclusion that Professor Walker-Smith was guilty of serious professional misconduct was flawed, in two respects: inadequate and superficial reasoning and, in a number of instances, a wrong conclusion… The end result is that the finding of serious professional misconduct and the sanction of erasure are both quashed.” Walker-Smith’s license to practice medicine was restored.
The other co-authors did not retract the findings of the study, but the interpretation of the study: “We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of such a link was raised and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent.”
We don’t want to beat a dead
scapegoat horse; but suffice to say, there are a number of facts to consider before reaching the conclusion that “Andy Wakefield is a fraud who said vaccines cause autism.”
And in case anyone was wondering, vaccine hesitancy is as old as the practice of mass vaccination itself. Parents in Leicester, England were willing to be imprisoned and fined for their stance against smallpox vaccination in the 1800s.
What about vaccines made with aborted fetal tissue?
Dr. Stanley Plotkin, author of the textbook, Vaccines, confirms in a 2018 deposition that his work related to vaccines included at least 76 aborted fetuses. He also confirms that he used mentally handicapped and orphan populations to study vaccines. Can we trust the “benevolent” vaccine science of those who are so clearly ethically misguided?
The cell lines used in vaccines are created from aborted fetal tissue, and although one might argue that we are “removed” from the aborted fetal tissue, it would be worthwhile to note that the older a cell line is, the more oncogenic it will become. And eventually, more aborted fetal tissue will be needed.
The fact remains: DNA and protein from the cell lines (which are created from the aborted fetuses) are, in fact, still present in vaccines on the market. Per the Varivax vaccine insert, “The product also contains residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein.”
The FDA stated in 2005 that “DNA is a biologically active molecule whose activities pose a significant risk to vaccinees; thus, the amount of DNA needs to be limited and its activities reduced.” The WHO recommends that residual DNA be limited to >10ng per dose. According to Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, fetal DNA levels in MMR, Varicella, and Hepatitis A vaccines ranged anywhere from 142ng – 2000ng per dose. This far exceeds the “safe” level of >10ng. It should be known that this study demonstrates that both damaged and healthy cells spontaneously incorporate fetal DNA fragments into the nucleus very quickly. This alters the DNA via insertional mutagenesis.
Should Christians be skeptical of vaccines or the agencies that promote them?
TGC’s article implies that Christians who reach a different conclusion about vaccines are victims to “anti-science propaganda and unwarranted skepticism of government institutions” or that perhaps their position isn’t based on evidence. However, it should be clear by now that vaccine hesitancy is an uncomfortable position that one does not hold lightly. Although supported by plenty of evidence and worthy of lengthy discussion, those who disagree with the party line, “safe and effective,” incur a great amount of persecution, not only from the world but sometimes from within the body of Christ itself.
Scripture tells us to be vigilant (1 Pet. 5:8), since the schemes of the enemy are often disguised as “good” (2 Cor. 11:14). Healthy skepticism is a good thing – especially when the institutions on the receiving end of our skepticism have proven themselves to be negligent at best, and downright malicious and untrustworthy at worst.
For example, in a recent lawsuit filed by ICAN, it was discovered that the HHS (which oversees the CDC, NIH, and FDA) failed to fulfill its congressional directive of completing biennial vaccine safety reports for over 30 years. This was a condition of the National Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, whose passage afforded vaccine manufacturers immunity from liability for injury or death.
In addition to the CDC whistleblower (mentioned above), it’s noteworthy that the CDC owns 56 vaccine patents – not exactly the unbiased institution the public thinks they are. The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices is also rife with conflicts of interest. Not to mention, major vaccine manufacturers (GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi) have been convicted and fined billions of dollars for fraud. Should we entrust the most precious ones – our children – to these corporations? With 271 vaccines in the pipeline, where will draw the line? How many before we are allowed to opt out?
Are Christians obligated to prioritize a “greater good” over the wellbeing of their own family?
Jesus leaves the 99 for the one. Paul also reminds us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Every last child is precious to the Lord, and we are not called to place our household in danger for a “common good.”
TGC claims that the benefit of vaccination outweighs the harm, but throughout this article, it has been shown that the issue is much more complicated and the data, as it stands, only provides us with a limited risk/benefit profile. In light of this information, it is intellectually dishonest to claim certainty regarding the risks and benefits. Additionally, it should be understood by now that the concept of herd immunity is merely an illusion of safety, and the vaccine program itself can and does put immune-compromised individuals at risk.
Should Christians support mass vaccination campaigns? Are vaccines “God’s gift?”
Highlighting historical participation of evangelicals in vaccine programs does not necessarily mean that Christians should continue in this action. In fact, we should all be open to new evidence as it is presented (as it has been in this response). “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17). Vaccines often seem right because the opposing voices are suppressed. It has been so since the smallpox vaccination campaigns that TGC references in their article, and the practice of suppressing dissent continues today.
As pointed out in the TGC article, Al Mohler states that vaccines could be seen as, “God’s gift through the rationality of modern medicine that reflected the orderly universe that God had given us.” After examining the differences between natural and artificial immunity (reviewed briefly earlier in this response), one should consider that the “order” of naturally-acquired immunity makes a far stronger case as a gift from God – in natural immunity, those who are most vulnerable are protected.
I would also argue that vaccination is not “God’s gift,” but is man’s attempt at imitating God’s design and order. It’s certainly ironic that the word “vaccine” is derived from the word “vacca,” meaning “cow.”
What about moral culpability?
If, as TGC claims, a parent who refuses to have their child vaccinated is morally responsible for the outcome of that choice, then are parents who choose TO vaccinate responsible if their child incurs an injury? Are they responsible if their child sheds the live virus from the vaccine? Are they morally culpable when their child is an asymptomatic carrier of pertussis following vaccination and infects an unvaccinated infant? Are they morally culpable for choosing to vaccinate for pertussis when said product makes the child more vulnerable to the illness later in life? Is the vaccine manufacturer morally responsible if your vaccinated child contracts the targeted infection?
Hopefully, we can see how complex “moral culpability” becomes when we consider ALL outcomes of the various choices we make regarding vaccination. We are all doing our best with the data we have, and to insinuate that non-vaccinating families should be held responsible for their choices – with no mention of the responsibility of the vaccinating party or vaccine manufacturers – is divisive and emotionally manipulative.
Neither fear of diseases, nor fear of side effects from the vaccine should be the basis of our vaccination decisions. God calls us to make wise decisions – and wise decisions are not based on coercion, guilt, and fear. Instead, let us seek wisdom (Prov. 18:15), evaluate all available evidence, and make decisions with a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). This means we must elevate truth over “consensus.”
If and when disagreement occurs, I pray we would unite on common ground for religious liberty. As believers, we should not have to fight to retain the integrity of our divinely created bodies.