The complicated issue with vaccinations

The decision of whether to vaccinate is more complex than many vaccine advocates generally admit. Photo by Paulina Martin.

With flu season fast approaching, vaccinations are again at the forefront of everyone’s minds. People feel a lot of pressure to get vaccinated every year. This is true not only of the flu vaccine but also several other types of vaccinations scheduled throughout the calendar year, both for adults and their children.

From the moment a child is born, there is pressure to vaccinate. By two months of age, a child is expected to have had at least seven vaccinations. Anyone who has watched a child grow up understands just how many vaccinations are recommended or even required to attend school and other functions.

Vaccinations play a huge role in our society as prevention for certain diseases. Unfortunately, those who choose not to vaccinate for health reasons are usually looked down upon as diseased violators of public health and safety.

I once encountered a joke that summarizes a popular stance on vaccinations.

“Sorry you can’t walk, Billy,” the joke said. “Your mom went to a quack when she was pregnant with you and the quack said that vaccinations were evil.”

Vaccinations are not a simple or foolproof process. There are many people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children because of unique health risks.  This is unfortunately forgotten by those who are able to take the vaccinations without any side effects.

For example, there are those who have seizures when subjected to vaccinations.  There are others whose immune systems have the tendency to overreact to foreign substances (for example, those who suffer from anaphylaxis) who would rather not risk going into shock to get a vaccination.

Vaccinations, because they can work, are powerful.  And unfortunately, when things are powerful, there is also the chance that they act powerfully in the opposite way than they were intended. Vaccinations in some cases can reverse the health benefits that were intended and lead recipients to suffer with even more medical issues than they had before vaccination.

There are also issues for pro-life activists regarding vaccinations. This is due to the fact that fetal stem cells are used to make certain vaccines. Of course, to obtain the stem cells, vaccine producers must utilize the bodies of aborted children. Naturally, this is a serious ethical dilemma for people who desire the potential health benefits of vaccinations but cannot in good faith support the production processes of particular vaccines.

Someone who is pro-vaccination must keep in mind that the issue is not a simple matter of people choosing to unreasonably forgo vaccines despite endangering the lives of all those around them.

If vaccinations work as well as people claim they do, which they probably do, in the case of one person in a group of 100 choosing not to vaccinate for either health or moral reasons, the other 99 should not have to worry about getting sick from the diseases against which they have immunized themselves. They should, of course, be immune to them.

Perhaps we should focus less on worrying about if we’ve gotten our flu shot and more about if we are eating well and exercising to prevent getting a sickness such as the flu in the first place.



  1. Vaccines working rely on the whole herd immunity, People with medical problems with vaccines are not forced to take them, and are protected by the herd.

    When people decided not to get vaccines because they’re dumb, it hurts the herd. Not getting a vaccine will not grant the aborted fetus life. Not getting a vaccine will not prevent autism. Not getting a vaccine because you want to be counter culture is stupid.

    Stupid people are going to kill the herd

  2. “Someone who is pro-vaccination must keep in mind that the issue is not a simple matter of people choosing to unreasonably forgo vaccines despite endangering the lives of all those around them.”
    That’s exactly the issue. People refusing to vaccinate claiming that it causes autism is what’s getting the broad social backlash, not people who can’t take vaccines for medical reasons. Maybe you’ve heard the term “herd immunity”, that’s how people who can’t vaccinate also get protected by vaccines. When people willfully compromise that herd immunity for no real reason there is a problem, and it’s not just their problem because they’re endangering those who genuinely can’t vaccinate themselves.

    People with medical contraindications DON’T CHOOSE not to vaccinate, they CAN’T vaccinate.

    Also you’re vastly overstating the possible down sides of vaccinations.

    One more thing is that this discussion doesn’t focus on flu shots like your article makes it seem. It’s about things much more serious, like the measles. Go ahead and jog to not get the flu, but you can’t jog away the measles

  3. Two other commenters addressed, very appropriately, the idea of herd immunity, which is a topic you present near the end of this article. I feel they more or less did justice the importance of the majority being vaccinated to protect the very small minority who cannot be vaccinated, so I’ll leave that part as is.

    Unfortunately, the mentality that there is herd immunity so we should be “free from needing vaccinations” is a big part of the problem. More and more people are foregoing vaccines for no legitimate reason; they aren’t immunocompromised, they just are scared because of a few trigger words utilized to elicit fear and choose not to go to the scientific literature for their answers. By electing not to have vaccines, there opens up a MUCH wider possibility for viral mutation to occur in the unvaccinated host, and then spread to the vaccinated host. The thing is, you are vaccinated against a specific strain, and that’s why the flu shot comes out every year; the strain mutates and evolves. Even diseases we haven’t seen in YEARS are still vaccinated against, and for a good explanation why, I implore you to look up the current Yellow Fever epidemic occurring in Angola and the DRC. To summarize, there was an effective vaccine against Yellow Fever, the majority decided not to vaccinate their kids since it seems more or less eradicated, and due to economical issues, workers are returning to the mines where they are being bitten by mosquitoes carrying YF and bringing it back to their communities.

    To address the fetal stem cell line of vaccines; there are currently 3 cell lines in use: one from 1962, one from 1966, and one from 1985. The latter of the three is being used for Ebola and HIV vaccinations, so the majority will not ever encounter these vaccines. The other two affect the vaccines of Adenovirus, Chickenpox, Hepatitis A, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Shingles. Many other vaccines have non-fetal cell line alternatives. The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, as well as U.S. and British Bishops Conferences, have also stated that alternatives should be sought out where they exist, however it is morally permissible to obtain a vaccine created with the assistance of a fetal cell line if there are no alternatives available.

    Unfortunately, how healthy of a lifestyle you lead means nothing regarding your immunity towards certain diseases. Healthy eating won’t prevent Yellow Fever, exercise won’t save you from Hepatitis. It surely doesn’t hurt to lead a healthy lifestyle for other reasons, but don’t put immunocompromised lives at risk because you’d rather run than have a sore arm for a day.


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