Refusing Vaccines is Not New

Refusing Vaccines is Not New

The current ignorance about vaccines is amazing. We see statements every day, frequently in religious publications, that are simply not true. There is nothing in a vaccine that could contain a microchip, for example. There is a fundamental distrust of the government and the scientific establishment that fuels ideas like this one. There are always hucksters who will seize upon this distrust and use it to try to make money. Refusing vaccines is not new.

In 1776 Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids frequently had cowpox, which is a virus found in cows. The milkmaids didn’t get smallpox, which was killing 30% of the population at the time. Doctors tried various attempts to stop the epidemic, but Jenner’s treatment of giving people cowpox shots was the only one that worked. But many people were refusing vaccines for a variety of religious reasons.

In America in 1809, Massachusetts passed a mandatory vaccination law. In England in 1853, the government passed a U.K. Vaccination Act. It required parents to have infants vaccinated by three months, or the parents would be arrested. This precipitated the “Anti-Vaccination League of London,” and in 1879, the “Anti-Vaccination Society of America” was formed.

In America from 1920 through the 1970s, scientists developed vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Some of those diseases, such as polio, were stopped in your author’s lifetime. I can remember iron lungs and classmates dying with polio and how we all celebrated when scientists produced the polio vaccine.

That all changed in 1982 when a documentary aired called “DPT: Vaccine Roulette.” It claimed that children had suffered brain damage from the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus shot. It turned out that the cases used in the documentary were unrelated to the vaccines, but the media never reported that. Parents formed “The National Vaccine Information Center,” which is an organization to encourage refusing vaccines.

We must point out that there can be allergies or reactions to any drug. When I was a kid, doctors used sulfa-drugs to fight infections, and I had a severe reaction to one of those drugs. The drug was never removed from the market because I was a rare exception, and the drug benefited many others. My atheist parents did not attach any religious significance to my allergy but withheld further treatments. Some people are very allergic to peanuts, but I have not heard of an anti-peanut league.

In 1998, the National Vaccine Information Center secured a report from Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist claiming that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine caused autism. Since I have a grandson who is autistic, I was very interested in that report. It turned out that Wakefield falsified data, and there was no connection. I took the time to check out the claim, but in 2000 Wakefield’s study reached the U.S. and was immediately seized upon by anti-vaccine groups as more evidence for refusing vaccines.

So why are we reporting on this in First, Christians are to serve others and do the best we can to promote well-being in all of those created in God’s image. That means we need to check out the stories and make sure the data supports what people are saying. We can not trust the news media, and TV programs promote hoaxes of all kinds, from Bigfoot to UFOs to miracle health substances.

Secondly, Christians should embrace anything that relieves suffering and avoids the pain of disease. Jesus had naysayers in His day. He would cure someone by a miracle, and His opponents would try to explain it away rather than admit He was God’s Son. Don’t blindly embrace the claims of anyone, but check out the facts. Vaccines are not made from aborted babies, and they do not contain fetal cells. Vaccines save thousands of lives, even though occasionally someone will have an adverse reaction to them.

Science and the Bible are friends, not enemies. The only reason vaccines work is because of God’s design of our bodies. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows completely” (Psalms 139:14).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Science News, May 8, 2021, pages 32-34.