Whether or not one supports the removal of religious exemptions to vaccination, the discussion about the issue should at least be accurate and honest. Sadly, agenda-driven hyperbole has hijacked the narrative in recent years, and oft-repeated mistruths have evolved to become widely-accepted dogma that may not be questioned. It is time to call out the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of our era and exposure these falsehoods one by one.
No major religion opposes vaccines.
False. Judaism prohibits current vaccine schedule for several reasons.1 The schedule is also a grave violation of the Seven Noahide Laws, a universal code for all humankind.2 The fact that it’s mandatory is an assault on the very concept of religion, i.e. that a human being is subordinate only to his/her Divine creator. In effect, there is no major world religion that does not support religious exemption.3 4
Vaccines are safe. The science is settled.
False. The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe.” The CDC delineates serious side-effects for every single vaccine. These risks are also disclosed by vaccine makers in each vaccine insert.
Vaccine policy is about keeping your child safe.
False. Vaccine policy is about state enforcing its policy, and has nothing to do with keeping my child safe. My six-year-old child is not at risk of catching Hepatitis B, for example, yet she cannot attend school due to this draconian policy even if she has received all other vaccines except for Hep-B.
Vaccine policy is all about ensuring herd immunity.
False. Vaccine policy is about state enforcing its policy, and not about any herd. Proof: Hepatitis B and tetanus are not contagious through casual contact, yet it’s on the schedule. Moreover, a child who is infected with Hep-B can even attend school.
Recent measles outbreak is a wake-up call to eliminate religious exemption.
False and deliberately misleading. States are threatening to eliminate religious exemption for the entire schedule, not just for measles. The “measles outbreak” is just fear-mongering. If this were truly about concern over measles, they’d be attempting to eliminate religious exemption for the measles vaccine only, and they’d make sure there was a vaccine for measles independent of mumps, rubella, and varicella.
It’s safer to vaccinate your child than to leave her unvaccinated.
Not necessarily. Your child has zero chance of catching polio here in the United States where the last wild variety case was in 1979, and the last imported case was in 1993. However, children are injured each year by the polio vaccine. 22 deaths reported to VAERS (which only reflects a small percentage of actual injuries and deaths) since 2010, and hundreds of injuries. Same with measles and other shots.
Risk from vaccine is less than risk from actual disease.
Not necessarily. 1,200 Americans caught measles this past year with not one single fatality, but deaths and injuries due to MMR vaccine are reported each year by VAERS.5 96 deaths due to MMR vaccine since 2003 and one or two deaths from actual measles.
False. Healthy unvaccinated child poses actual risk to no one. A child who is sick with contagious disease should be quarantined, whether s/he had been previously vaccinated or not. A healthy child presents no risk to anyone simply because s/he lacks immunity to a disease.
False. Measles was never eradicated. 86 cases in 2000 alone, the year it was declared eradicated!8 Measles will never be eradicated, since vaccine is only 93 percent effective and only provides temporary immunity. In fact, most teenagers have been found to lack immunity even after having two doses as a young child.
Increase in unvaccinated population will bring back dreaded diseases like polio.
Not necessarily. Polio was on the decline before vaccines were in use. Same with measles.
Whoever opposes the vaccine schedule is an ‘anti-vaxxer.’
False. There are plenty of parents who give some vaccinations but decline others for valid personal, religious or philosophical reasons. They cannot be called “anti-vaccine.” They are simply opposed to the mandatory schedule.
If you are writing this, you must be an ‘anti–vaxxer.’
False. You have no idea about my medical choices. Your assumption is simply a convenient means to evade these serious discussions via “guilt by association,” since you’re apparently too lazy or feeble-minded to critically examine my arguments. I am not opposed to vaccination. Instead, I am opposed to force-medicating people and to banning healthy children from school. Moreover, I object to group-think or “herd thinking,” such as you have demonstrated by your ad hominem rhetoric.
’Anti–vaxxers‘ are anti-science.
Wrong. People who choose not to vaccinate are not opposed to science, since science does not make moral judgments. It merely proves hypotheses based on empirical evidence. Even if scientists had indeed demonstrated that 95 percent vaccination rate ensures “herd immunity,” the decision to vaccinate is still a moral one. A religious Jew makes moral decisions based on Torah values, and “herd immunity” has no basis in Jewish law.
It’s reckless to not take available precautions to avoid contagious disease, so people who don’t vaccinate are reckless.
False. When is it irresponsible to not make use of an available precaution to illness? Only if a) the preventative measure entails no risk of its own, and b) it entails no violation of one’s personal, ethical, moral, philosophical values. Conversely, if the precaution carries its own risks, or if it is at odds with one’s religious (etc) beliefs, then it’s not recklessness, but a matter of personal choice.
Do you want to know what’s reckless? I’ll tell you: Banning 35,000 healthy children from school… that’s reckless! Trampling individual civil liberties, usurping bodily autonomy, violating religious freedoms… that is perilously reckless.
If the state’s democratically-elected legislature voted to eliminate religious exemption, then it’s lawful. That’s democracy at work.
Fact: nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights does the word “democracy” appear. Our founding fathers rightfully feared democracy, which can well become a “dictatorship of the majority.” Hitler initially rose to power through democratic elections as well, as did Hamas. Our republic is based on immutable values enshrined in the Bill of Rights, not on whims of majority rule that may well be unlawful.
This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published at Rabbi’s Blog. Michoel Green is a Jewish rabbi.
1 Deuteronomy 14:1 prohibits needle wounds if not for direct curative benefit for patient. Preventative benefit qualifies, but only if it prevents an actual risk of disease. It is dubious whether an STD like Hep-B or HPV poses any substantive risk to a young child, or to any orthodox Jewish child. Deuteronomy 4:15 prohibits exposing oneself to risk, even negligible risk, and even for the sake of a so-called herd. Avoda Zara 29b prohibits deriving benefit from human cadavers. Abortion is akin to murder, as per Genesis 9:6. It is forbidden to compensate a company for the abortions and live dissections of human beings that it committed by harvesting the fetal tissue for human cell lines in numerous vaccines. Purchasing vaccines that contain aborted fetal tissue is a violation of Leviticus 19:14, as it enables and encourages these companies to commit their heinous deeds.
2 Genesis 9:5 prohibits Noahides from self-inflicting wounds or exposing oneself to risk. Abortion is murder, as per ibid 9:6. A Noahide is prohibited from compensating a murderer. Rambam, Mishne Torah, Laws of Rotzeach 2:2. See Sheva Mitzvot HaShem by Rabbi Moshe Vainer, volume 1, page 58, regarding the precise prohibition of a Noahide of encouraging others to violate the Noahide Code.
3 The wording of this lie is particularly insidious, since it is deliberately deceptive: this discussion isn’t about the idea of vaccination in principle, but about forcing people to have all these specific vaccines. For example, one person’s religion might approve of the idea of vaccination in general, but might be opposed to a vaccine for an STD, or for diseases which no longer exist in the United States, like polio. Others might be opposed to vaccines under normal circumstances, but might agree to receive one during a time of outbreak. Yet others might have religious beliefs that preclude several vaccines due to aborted fetal DNA material extracted by live dissection, or because of excessive cruelty to animals, but might agree to general principle behind vaccination. So the statement “No religion opposes vaccination” is nothing more than a straw man meant to deflect and distract from the actual debate.
4 VAERS only reflects a small percentage of actual injuries and deaths.
7 Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 618:9.
8 CDC. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: The Pink Book: Course Textbook – 13th Edition (2015), Appendix E.