Amid controversy about the safety of using vaccines, Christians have found themselves discussing the scientific, public policy and moral implications of immunizations.
Following a measles outbreak in Southern California and discussion of vaccinations by several potential 2016 presidential candidates, Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has published an article by a Christian pediatrician touting the safety and effectiveness of vaccinating children.
Meanwhile, the public policy aspect of vaccination discussions has centered on the question of whether governments should require all children to be vaccinated or allow conscientious objectors to opt out on religious and moral grounds. One homeschool advocacy group has withdrawn its support from a vaccination bill in the Mississippi legislature because lawmakers removed a provision allowing children to be exempt from immunizations based on the beliefs of their parents.
In yet another facet of the discussion, some vaccination opponents have raised concerns that many common vaccines were first developed using cell lines generated from tissues of aborted fetuses.
Writing for the ERLC, Texas pediatrician Justin Smith noted, “In my pediatric practice, questions about vaccines come up frequently. Your Facebook timeline, like mine, is often filled with vocal vaccine skeptics and critics who make us feel like we are in the minority opinion. So what is a Christian to do with vaccinations? I believe they should vaccinate and vaccinate with confidence.”
Smith presented three reasons why he believes Christians should have their children vaccinated, countering the argument that potential side effects of immunization outweigh the benefits:
–Christians should vaccinate because science confirms the effectiveness and safety of vaccinations.
“The basic science of vaccines is sound and proven,” Smith wrote. “They are chemicals that are found in nature. Your child will get more mercury from a tuna fish sandwich, more aluminum from breast milk or formula and more formaldehyde from a pear than they will receive from vaccinations.”
— Christians should vaccinate because we love our neighbors.
“We are our brother’s keeper (Gen 4:9),” Smith wrote. “Choosing not to vaccinate and to hide in the herd of everyone else who does puts others unnecessarily at risk and, as we have seen these past few weeks, does not work. Vaccination is pro-life and pro-neighbor because it serves the public good.”
— Christians should vaccinate because we don’t give in to fear mongering.
Vaccine opponents sometimes exaggerate the potential side effects of shots and “play on our biggest fears as a parent, that we might do something that could harm our children,” Smith wrote. “What they forget to mention is that by not vaccinating you are taking a bigger risk.”
Debates about the scientific advisability of immunizations are not a recent phenomenon. They date back to at least 1721, when early New Englanders discussed whether they should be inoculated against smallpox amid an outbreak in Boston. New England Puritans were among those to debate whether inoculation was permitted by Scripture and medically advisable. Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the most famous Puritan to promote smallpox inoculation, died from side effects of an inoculation in 1758.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press