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Christians and Vaccinating

Kudos to Christianity Today for their May 2015 cover story, “Why Christians of All People Should Get Their Vaccines” by Matthew Loftus (the link only gives you a preview at this point unless you’re a subscriber).

The article makes a number of important points.

Scientific research (including that sponsored by the CDC) continues to repeatedly refute the study that suggested a link between autism and vaccination.

More generally, the risks entailed in getting a vaccine are less than the risks associated with failing to be vaccinated.

What does this have to do with being a Christian?

Vaccines are not just about personal health. They are about public health. Susceptible persons can bring a disease into a community and spread it to other susceptible persons.

In any given population, there will not be a 100% vaccination rate. Some people, particularly those of lower socio-economic standing, will not have had access to basic medical care. If everyone around them is immunized, there is a level of “herd immunity” that lowers the risks for those who are untreated. If people start making choices not to vaccinate, disease rates can skyrocket.

Vaccinating is a way to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I see Christians’ reluctance to vaccinate as potentially feeding off of a larger narrative.

Some Evangelical Christians, in particular, have created a strangely antagonistic posture toward science over the past several generations. That tribal posture we talked about a couple days ago has kicked in here: evolution arrived as the marker of “their tribe” versus “ours.”

We need to be careful with our self-definitions–including what marks who we are not.

To be “not them” can mean claiming that they are skewing the evidence about global warming, that they are trying to seduce us with lies in their summons to vaccinate our kids.

This has the power to make us bad neighbors.

Our “tribe” is the just and the unjust alike. And to be like our Father in Heaven is to care for the just and the unjust by bestowing life-giving blessings.

This probably includes vaccines.

Good job taking this stand, CT.

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7 thoughts on “Christians and Vaccinating

  1. For the sake of clarity, here in the UK there has been a similar problem. There was a scare a few years ago about the possibility of a link between autism and the combined MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination. The MMR vaccination had been brought in as a replacement for separate injections against each of the three diseases. The scare was not about vaccination as such, but about the combined MMR inoculation. Parents who were worried about MMR said they would be perfectly happy for their children to receive the older, separate vaccinations, but the government would not allow this even though there had never been the slightest doubt about the safety of the separate vaccinations. It seems to me completely reasonable for parents with doubts about MMR to opt instead for a procedure they perceived as safer. Please tell me if the anti-vaccination people in the US are worried for the same reason as here in the UK. If so, then, on the basis of the precautionary principle, I think they are within their rights to ask for an alternative immunisation to be given to their children which does not present the possible risk they think is in MMR. If this is the case, it is perhaps rather crude to beat them with the sticks of accusations of tribalism and not caring for their neighbours.

      1. Does that mean you don’t know whether or not they are worried about MMR (or its US equivalent), or whether they are against vaccination as a general principle–rather like being against ‘science’? If the latter, are there really significant numbers of people over there to warrant a significant put-down from CT (and you)? I know there is a particular Christian cult opposed to blood transfusions; is there now another group of nutters opposed to vaccination? Surely not.

        1. Oops! ‘significant’ twice in the same sentence. The second one should have been ‘forceful’.

  2. As I stated on the Facebook thread, this is a far more ambiguous issue and cannot be reduced to a black and white decision. Calling out Christians to vaccinate as a means of loving and serving the world and looking out for their health, would be like me saying that all Christians should be vegan because our first mandate is to take care of the earth and animal kingdom and factory farming does neither of those.

    This is not an issue of Faith. Building relationships, however, IS. And we need to be well informed on both sides in order to understand and better empathize with those who have been harmed on both sides of the issue.

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