For parents on the fence about vaccines

This essay is for parents who are torn. They want to protect their kids from disease, but are extremely worried about the possible bad side effects of vaccines, and they are not sure whether or not to take those risks.

That was me, when my oldest kids were young. I was torn. I trusted my doctor about some things, but not others; and I knew the diseases in question were dangerous, but the possible side effects also seemed very dangerous.

Every time we went to the doctor, I had to make the choice over whether or not to vaccinate; and every time we went, I was overwhelmed by all the bad things that might happen if we did.

So we got some of the vaccines, but not all. Sometimes I would cry almost as much as the kids, when they got their shots. If I was especially torn, I would take the safer, neutral route and just decline. I couldn’t get myself to choose things that might turn out to be dangerous, so I just opted out of choosing. The choice was too awful, so I decided not to make it. It just seemed safer that way.

Now we all get all the recommended vaccines. I am still aware of the possible risks of some vaccines, and I’m not happy about them; but I’m no longer torn.

What changed? I sure wish I could remember. All I recall is that, one day, it became crystal clear to me that, no matter what I did, I was making a choice. When I said “no” to certain vaccines, I was making a choice. When I told the doctor I’d rather opt out, I was making a choice.

There was no safe, neutral middle ground in opting out. When I decided to opt out of vaccines, I wasn’t perching safely on a fence, avoiding possible dangers and perils and ruin on both sides. When I decided to opt out, I was choosing a side with very real possible dangers and perils and ruin. Opting out didn’t feel like a choice, because I wasn’t doing anything. But it was a choice all the same, because disease is real. It was a choice, and my choice had consequences for my children and for the community.

It wasn’t like piercing ears, where I could decide the risks were too great, and simply leave those ears alone. It wasn’t like going on a roller coaster, where I could decide the risks were too great, and simply step out of line and go about my day. It was more like being aware that people are occasionally injured by seat belts, and choosing to opt out of strapping my kids in when I drove. This is not a neutral act, even though I’m not doing anything. Deciding not to vaccinate meant that I was making a choice to expose my kids to serious diseases that could maim or kill them.

And I was making that choice for other people, too. My kids are, for the most part, strong and healthy, and have a very low risk of adverse reactions to vaccines. We’re not immunocompromised, we’re not getting chemo, and we don’t have allergies. We are in a group medically fragile depend on (and one of my children is now medically fragile, too). When I told myself I was taking the safe, neutral route by opting out of vaccines, I was really making a choice about the health and safety of other people — friends, family, strangers, kids at the playground, old women at Mass, the fragile child at the supermarket. Children like my child.

Now, if my doctor introduces a new vaccine, I read as much about it as I can from reputable sources, before I decide which choice to make. I talk to people whose judgment I have good reason to trust. And this includes the Pontifical Academy for Life.  CNS’ Cindy Wooden reports the academy said in 2017 there is a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others.”

Now when I take my kids to the doctor, I consider the possible consequences of getting each vaccine, and I also consider the possible consequences of not getting it — the consequences for my kids, for my family, and for the community, especially the vulnerable — and I ask myself if I’m willing to take responsibility for making that choice.

There really isn’t any such thing as opting out from this choice.  It’s our duty to take responsibility for the choice we make, to see clearly what we are choosing. If we choose not to vaccinate, we’re freely choosing to expose our kids and the wider community to diseases that can maim or kill. There isn’t such a thing as remaining neutral.

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Image: CDC/ Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Library (Website) (public domain)

Think globally, like the Church, and vaccinate

I used to be hesitant about vaccines. I defiantly told my pediatrician that I’d “done my homework” and wouldn’t be needing about half the vaccines on the list. I didn’t think my particular kids were at risk for these diseases, and so I didn’t think my kids should have to get jabbed. Pretty simple.

Now, however . . .

Read the rest of my latest for the Catholic Weekly

Image via Pixabay

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What can American parents learn from a doll?

Polio_sequelle

In wealthy, progressive Seattle, polio vaccination rates are lower than in Rwanda. Parents in Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Algeria, El Salvador, Guyana, Sudan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Yemen are doing more to protect their children from this crippling and often deadly disease than some American parents.

This dangerous trend is due, in part, to historical amnesia. There are fewer and fewer people around who remember the devastation of the polio epidemics of the late 1940′s and early 50′s.  Between 19445 and 1949, something like 20,000 American contracted polio. In 1952, there were 58,000 cases. Ten of thousands of American were paralyzed; many died. The nation was terrified, and rightly so.

Read the rest at the Register.

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How I feel after participating in a 917-comment thread about vaccines on Facebook

Oh, dearie dearie dear.

Are WHO and UNICEF secretly sterilizing Kenyan women with a tetanus vaccine? Maybe, but probably not.

Last week, the bishops of Kenya accused the WHO and UNICEF of secretly lacing a tetanus vaccine with a hormone intended to induce miscarriage and sterility in Kenyan women of childbearing age, in an effort to reduce the population. The bishops issued a press release, saying:

[W]e shall not waver in calling upon all Kenyans to avoid the tetanus vaccination campaign laced with Beta-HCG, because we are convinced that  it is indeed a disguised population control programme.

We do know that the WHO and UNICEF do not take seriously the bodily integrity of poor families, especially women. The West has a shameful history of exploiting third world populations in the name of humanitarian efforts. So the bishops’ allegations are understandable, and if they are true, this is a dreadful crime against humanity. But if the allegations are false, then spreading the story could have disastrous results. Neonatal tetanus brings a prolonged and agonizing death to tens of thousands of children every year. If Kenyans are afraid to vaccinate against tetanus, people will die needlessly.  That’s why I didn’t write about this story, even as it cropped up everywhere. All I could find  was the same facts and sources in every story, no new information. Now we have some new information, and there is more on the horizon. The story is far from settled, but there are strong reasons to suspect that the bishops’ allegations arise from a misunderstanding and there has been no sterilization campaign.  Catholic News Agency did an excellent job of reporting the story in a balanced way:

“There are aspects of this that need to be raising red flags because of history and because of the way it was all being done. But raising red flags doesn’t mean that there’s something that actually has occurred,” said Dr. Kevin Donovan, director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University.

The red flags are primarily: (a) that the vaccination campaign targeted women of childbearing age, raising suspicions that the effort was tied to population control, and (b) that, when the vaccine was tested at the request of the Kenyan bishops, hCG was found. HCG, in high enough quantities, can induce miscarriage and sterilization. But these red flags can both be explained.

The WHO said that they decided to focus the vaccination campaign on women of reproductive age “because of the focus on eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus.” They also said that the methods needed to provide adequate protection against tetanus for unborn and newborn children require a different testing schedule than the one usually used for other forms of tetanus.

But what about the hCG detected in the vaccine? Why would it be in a tetanus vaccine at all, even in low levels “millions of times less than the amount needed to trigger this contraceptive response“? The WHO and Donovan both noted that the techniques used by the labs who tested the vaccines, and the reports they produced, are irregular and problematic. One likely explanation for the small levels of hCG detected? A false positive. Donovan explains:

“If these were labs that were using tips to test for pregnancy and such, they may not be the appropriate measuring techniques for picking up small amounts of hCG, leading to false positives.”

“I suspect that the tests that the hospital labs tried to do for the Catholic bishops weren’t really designed to test the way that they did, maybe giving them erroneous results,” he added.

For a detailed and rigorous explanation of why it is by no means certain that the tetanus vaccine is anything but a tetanus vaccine, Rational Catholic has once again done the legwork , sifting carefully through the possibilities of what may or may not have happened here, and explaining in detail how a false positive could have been found. Rational Catholic also notes:

I have seen the lab results from the tests performed at the request of the bishops in Kenya, and my understanding is that they will be published shortly in an online news source.  I will update and link to them when that happens.

The main obstacle to finding the truth seems to be that the local government in Kenya did not initially take the bishops’ concerns seriously, but that may be changing.According to a Kenyan newspaper, (link courtesy of the Rational Catholic post)

[T]he Parliamentary Committee on Health ruled that a joint team of experts from the Ministry of Health, Catholic Church and other stakeholders would conduct a fresh round of independent medical tests to end the controversy on the safety of the vaccines.

There is mistrust and bad feeling on both sides, but it is clear that both the Kenyan bishops and the Kenyan government are eager to make sure that Kenyans are not dissuaded from protecting themselves from a vaccine that saves lives, so we can only pray that the new round of testing will be definitive and that the results will be shared in a clear and transparent way. In the mean time, I urge concerned readers with good intentions to stop spreading the story that the vaccine was deliberately and secretly contaminated. This has not been proven, and can only add to the general confusion about vaccine safety.

RETRACTED: “Whistle-blower” Hooker’s study linking MMR Vaccine to autism in African American boys

PIC photo of Hooker

The Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.

Original article by Brian Hooker  here. Retraction as follows:

Retraction: Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young African American boys: a reanalysis of CDC data

Brian S Hooker

Additional article information

Retraction

The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

There is still no proven link between vaccines and autism.

Rational Catholic continues dismantling the shoddy science in Dr. Deisher’s vaccine/autism study

The indefatigable Rational Catholic, still undeterred by accusations of being an enormous meany-pants, has provided us with part two of what will be a three-part series explaining why there is no reason to accept Dr. Theresa Deisher’s study proposing a link between vaccines and autism.

In part one, Rational Catholic teased out the problems with Deisher’s statistical methodology. In part two,  Problems with Deisher’s Study: Biological Implausibility, Rational Catholic systematically dismantles Deisher’s actual hypothesis.

Noteworthy: Part II was updated to include commentary from Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, who has read all of Deisher’s public work. Fr. Austiraco has just been awarded his second research grant from the NIH. Rational Catholic added his comments on Deisher’s work with permission from Fr. Austiraco, who is a Dominican priest with a Ph.D in Biology from MIT. He teaches theology and biology at Providence College.

Congratulations to Fr. Austiraco (pictured below) and to Rational Catholic for their faithful work pursuing truth through rigorous science!

 

 

PIC Fr. Austiraco

Hey, who wants to talk about Dr. Deisher and vaccines and autism and fetal cells and statistics? Some more?

PIC man showing woman statistics chart

Not me! But other folks do, and ain’t other folks what make the world go round? Here are a few good reads for vaccine/austism/fetal cell/Deisher/statistical analysis die hards, following an odd exchange I had with Stacy Trasancos in the comment box of my Monday post, But what if we’re not scientists?

The folks at Rational Catholic have added an even more in-depth commentary on the statistical analysis in Dr. Deisher’s study with Looking a Little Closer at the Numbers

Joseph Moore of Yard Sale of the Mind offers Simcha Fisher’s Science Post: the Gift that Keeps On Giving!

And after Stacy Trasancos wrote this, to her credit she asked highly credentialed statistician Matt Briggs to evaluate Dr. Deisher’s study. You can read his opinion at Autism and Stem-Cell Derived Vaccines: Deisher’s New Paper.

So now you are all caught up! I find that I am sitting here slowly making my way through an unattended stick of butter as I type, so rather than go through and find tantalizing pull quotes for you from the links above, I’m going to get away from my computer for a bit. Byee!

What About Behavioral and Spiritual Arguments Against Vaccines?

PIC vaccine

As we can see from Tuesday’s post and the response to it, it’s not necessarily clear what we mean when we say “science” or “medicine.” So let’s put science and medicine aside entirely for a moment, and let’s focus on two arguments against vaccines that I keep hearing — arguments which don’t appeal to science at all, but which are spiritual and behavioral.

Read the rest at the Register.   Note: any snark, condescension, lack of charity, arrogance, self-pity, logical fallacies or otherwise insufferable behavior in this post is unintentional. If you think I’ve missed the mark, please pray for me and respond with as much kindness as you can, because I really am trying here.