To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?


To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

Vaccination can be a hot-button topic among parents. There are many reasons while parents may object to having their children vaccinated. This article will focus on one moral argument – the fact that tissue from aborted children was used to make many vaccines. In venturing into these tumultuous waters, I would like to make three statements:

1)    I am 100% pro-life.

2)    I believe parents have the right to make the decisions that they feel are best for their children and their consciences.

3)    My children are fully vaccinated.

In 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement regarding the use of these vaccines. I encourage you to read the full document at That statement does give parents the right to object to having their children vaccinated for moral reasons, but it emphasizes that this must be weighed against public health risk. The summation at the end of the article states:

-There is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;

– as regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch  as is necessary in  order to  avoid  a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women;

– the lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for  the good of one’s children  and of the people  who come in contact with the children (pregnant women);

– such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

In 2008, the Vatican issued the document Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions which also addressed this issue:

Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision.

We can therefore state on moral grounds that while we do have a responsibility to object to the fact that the vaccines were made using these methods, we can make the decision to use them for the well-being of our children and society at large.

As I reflected on this issue, I tried to find a moral comparison. The one that kept coming to mind was organ donation. If a person is murdered, that person’s organs can still be donated (provided she was not murdered for the purpose of obtaining her organs). Would the recipient be considered a cooperator with evil because he benefited from the wrongful death of another? No. In fact, the gift of organ donation can be considered to bring a good out of a very bad situation.

In the case of these murdered unborn children (in 1964 and 1970), the decision had already been made to murder them. That is the horrible reality. Using the tissue from them does not change that initial evil, but is it possible that, like an organ donation, the vaccines brought some good to the world? Perhaps an ethicist can answer that question for me.

In terms of moral responsibility for the evil incurred in this chain of events, even the Vatican states that a parent who chooses to use these vaccines holds a very small level of responsibility. I certainly do not advocate the committing of sin, but the reality is that despite our best efforts, most of us, myself included, have committed more evil in thought, word, and deed, since we got up this morning. Perhaps considering the wider implications of public health if we refuse these vaccines, our energy in avoiding evil could be directed to more immediate concerns.

As for the practical question of whether to refuse to vaccinate one’s children for this moral reason, as the Vatican has stated, one does have the right to do so. However, vaccines work because a majority of the population is vaccinated. If the number of those who refuse to vaccinate their children increases, that protection will be lost and those diseases we consider eradicated can return. Those who choose not to vaccinate their children are protected because I chose to vaccinate mine. They are still benefitting from the vaccines.

Copyright 2012 Patrice Fagnant MacArthur


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  1. For those of us who do not homeschool their children, but choose to educate them in the mainstream public school system, vaccinations are required. Anytime we sign our children up for any kind of program (kindergarten, camp, etc.) we must present a list of vaccinations given to the child that is signed by the doctor.

    I honestly didn’t have any idea that some vaccines came from unborn children, but I feel that I do not have a choice in this decision due to the “requirements” of certain programs.

  2. Thank you for commenting. Yes, this is frequently the case. While the law does allow for a conscientious exemption for religious reasons, it can be difficult to prove and use (should one choose to exercise that right). In most cases, there is a compulsion to follow the law. The bishops have said that, while we need to encourage manufacturers to find other means of developing these vaccines in order to remove this moral issue, we parents can certainly have our children vaccinated, both to comply with the law and to protect our children from these diseases.

  3. I think there is an understanding out there that if we choose to forgo vaccines because they are made with stem cells of aborted fetuses, as a form of protest, then they might make more effort to change the way they do things, which they most undoubtedly could do. Stem cells from aborted fetuses are just easier and cheaper. And it gives validity to abortion as a health benefit, but in a sick and twisted way. I vaccinate my children because, like you, I have decided that the health risk is too great to avoid it, and I know that if my children could not be vaccinated for some reason, I would want others to vaccinate their own children to help protect mine. But, again, its just one of those hard decisions we are forced to make because evil exists. Good article. I think a lot of people are uninformed about the presence of aborted fetal cells or what that exactly means.

  4. We used to be a vaccinating family but our youngest has not received any at all & is definitely the healthiest of all of our children. Our youngest son had severe adverse reactions to nearly ever vaccination but, b/c we didn’t know better, we kept going with them & suffering the consequences each time.

    The one thing I often wonder when different illnesses rear their ugly heads (like the whooping cough commercial, or outbreaks, etc.) is that, if these vaccinations really work like they say they do, why, then, are people being told they need “boosters” decades later? Or, if they are doing their job, why do these illnesses creep up, how can they? If one was truly “immune” then they should not be able to get the disease, correct?

    We homeschool but our oldest went to the local high school for 3 years & all we did was sign a waiver that stated he would be asked to stay home if an outbreak of something occurred in the school simply to protect HIM from getting sick. My immediate thought was this, “If they are saying that those who are vaccinated may end up sick & they are trying to protect my son, I am happy about that but…how could they get sick in the first place if these vaccinations were all they are cracked up to be?” It just doesn’t make sense to me…

    I know many will disagree with me on this but my husband & I did LOTS of reading, research, etc., before deciding to go this route. We actually were able to work with our now amazing pediatrician & educated him on things to the point that he is not proponent of full vaccination including his own children!

    Yes, there were (and are) bad diseases out there but, in the end, God created our bodies to be as healthy as possible & to heal themselves under normal conditions. I would argue that the high fructose corn syrup & mega preservatives in most of our foods these days are more dangerous than wayward illnesses/diseases that haven’t been around in decades or more.

    This is all strictly from a health perspective … then adding in the moral objection of how they come about these vaccines and I am constantly reminded that it’s like Sodom & Gomorrah the minute we walk out our front doors everyday! All we can do is the best we can with the knowledge we have to care for these amazing gifts that God has blessed us with for such a limited time.

    God bless you all!!!

  5. I have a different point of view that influences my belief in using vaccines. If any Catholic pays attention to pro-life issues, which I am sure many do, I am also sure you have come across outspoken eugenicists. Bill Gates being one of the celebrity eugenicists out there constantly preaches the importance of birth control, ‘reproductive health services’ and vaccines to help lower the population. Is that not an odd combination?
    Don’t get me wrong I know the excuses and reasons they give, but we all know its total crap and anti-Catholic to promote having smaller families because gaia is hurting and its all the humans fault.
    They push sterilization, condoms, abortion and vaccines off on all these third world countries and most people have no idea that this is the ‘humanitarian’ work that goes on, when you hear about philanthropists going to these countries to help, this is usually the majority of what work they do.

    So not to turn this into an issue of abortion etc., I am trying to provide my point of view that a multitude of the richest and most powerful people on this planet religiously believe in vaccines and pour money into programs to get people vaccinated right along with all the other depopulation agenda’s.

    My two cents.

    • If the beginning of what I said sounded like I am for vaccines, on the contrary I am 100% against them. I worded it incorrectly.

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