Public Health v. Ethics

State Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) has sponsored legislation that would allow parents to object to having their children vaccinated on the basis of religious objections. What might be unethical about vaccinations? According to critics, they’re forced rather than voluntary. (In Mississippi, by the way, parents may choose not to have their kids vaccinated, but those children are not allowed to attend day care or schools until they are.) The religious objection comes from the fact that some vaccines were derived by using the tissue of aborted fetuses.

Mississippi actually leads the nation in the percentage of kids who receive standard vaccinations. HB 1505 will provide an interesting case study of the way our state’s citizens weigh professed religious faith against common sense.

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13 Responses to Public Health v. Ethics

  1. Brianna Ladnier says:

    What’s unethical in this situation is not the “forcing” of vacinnations onto school children, but on parents’ willingness to risk the health of other children because they do not feel like following the rules. When your child is sick, it must go home. You cannot say “My child cannot go home! The Bible talks about having to have knowledge! If you send my child home, your disobeying my religion!” That’s ridiculous, and the same applies to not getting vaccinated. If you are extremely against it, you can home school your children.

    Also, on the note of the aborted fetus cells, I encourage people to question this. When we hear that aborted fetus cells are used in our vaccines, many immediately envision a baby is killed for every vaccine. However, this is extremelg far from the case.
    “As with most antivaccine tropes, there is a grain of truth distorted beyond recognition here. The virus stocks used to make some vaccines are grown in cell lines like the WI-38 cell line, which is a human diploid fibroblast cell line derived from a three month old fetus aborted therapeutically in 1962. Of course, there’s a huge difference between a cell line that was derived from a fetus 55 years ago and actual “fetal cells.” While it’s correct to say that WI-38 cells were derived from a fetus, they are many generations (replications) removed from the original cells from the original fetus. Even though that most anti-abortion of religions, the Catholic Church is not thrilled with vaccines made in WI-38 cells and urges scientists to develop vaccines that don’t use such cell lines, it recognizes the great good vaccines do and concludes that the extreme good of protecting children’s lives from deadly diseases far outweighs the distant evil that created the cell lines. I also note that, in the case of WI-38, the abortion was therapeutic; i.e., medically indicated. It was not elective.”

  2. Michelle L says:

    Since unvaccinated children aren’t allowed to attend public schools in Mississippi, in a way, vaccinations are “forced.” At the same time, I assume those who are most zealously against vaccination would be fine with that due to presumption that “anti-vaxxers” are also over-protective parents. Using the word “forced,” additionally, implied it’s some kind of breach against personal liberty beyond what’s acceptable for maintaining order. Is enforcing vaccination any more unethical than “forcing” people to not commit crime?
    Given the evidence at hand, I think vaccination is a good thing. A decrease in vaccination would not be a good thing. I have always understood vaccination to be a very important and necessary act for all healthy individuals. It protects others who can’t get vaccinated due to immune reasons, and not vaccinating has lead to a perceptible return of illnesses like measles. According to the article, Mississippi is one of only three states that disallows a religious exemption for vaccination. To me, that’s surprising given Mississippi’s reputation. Mississippi has a rather progressive on this issue at the moment in having most children vaccinated. I would not like to see a religious argument be used to further an anti-vaccination agenda in this state that could endanger others, though I am frankly clouded by a limited ability to understand religious arguments.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think the “forced” vaccinations are fair; children capable of spreading these diseases should not be allowed to be around other children, risking their health. I believe taking this risk to the lives of children is more unethical than using the tissues of aborted fetuses to protect public health. Likewise, while the pro-life argument wants people to recognize the importance and meaning in these aborted babies, I find it ironic that they see harm in using the tissues of them for the good of others after the criminal abortion has been committed. I think the state should not allow parents to object to their children receiving vaccinations on this religious basis.

  4. Kaelon McNeece says:

    Vaccinations concern the subject of domestic wellness protection. If vaccinations were only optional, so many catastrophic outbreaks of illnesses we’ve deemed preventable could break out across the nation. So if the nation takes it upon itself to keep its own citizens safe by preventing these illnesses, what’s the harm? It may be required for children in order to maintain the health of everyone else involved in the schooling system, but throwing the word “forced” into the mix makes vaccinations seem like the actions of a “big bad government” that requires all citizens to commit some horrible action that really isn’t just preventing thousands of unnecessary deaths.
    Regarding the religious opposition to vaccination, an article on states, “First, you need to realize that fear mongering about “fetal parts” in vaccines is, not surprisingly, a distortion of the real situation, which is that the human cell lines are used to make some vaccines. Specifically, the WI-38 cell line is a human diploid fibroblast cell line derived from a three month old fetus aborted therapeutically in 1962 in the US. Another cell line, MRC-5, was derived from lung fibroblasts of a 14 week old fetus in 1966 in the United Kingdom. These are currently the only fetal cell lines used to grow viruses for vaccines, with most other vaccines requiring cell lines from animal.” Even the vaccines that utilize animal cell lines are few and far between with those vaccinations being for Hepatitis A, Rubella, Chickenpox, and Shingles. The truth is, scientists are not butchering infants for our older children to survive school. The fetus deaths that led to the creation of the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines were both medical necessities and have been manipulated far beyond what they once were through multiple generations of cellular alterations.

  5. Tija Johnson says:

    I completely understand sticking to what you believe in because I stand firm in things. However, risking the health of other children is not acceptable. (This may seem wrong but…) I feel that children who aren’t vaccinated should possibly attend another daycare or stay at home. You cant just go around injecting needles into babies but other children don’t need to get sick neither. Most policies state that if a child is sick and can possibly make other children sick then they must go home. That is the same in vaccination case. If they can possibly affect others then they shouldn’t be placed in a predicament where they can harm children.

  6. Kendra Bradley says:

    This is a very short-sighted perspective. In allowing parents to refuse vaccinations like this, it puts others at risk, namely young children and the immune-compromised. The abortions performed for these vaccinations are not against the will of the mother; why is it their business? This is a question raised anytime abortion comes up, and one I haven’t heard more than an “abortion is murder” argument for. Whenever someone can come up with a better argument than an unborn child’s life weighing more than that of the mother, this may be more reasonable. Until then, the lives of the weak in the population should not be put on the line for an arbitrary “line” being drawn.

  7. Dev Jaiswal says:

    People should not see taking measures to protect the general health of the community as unethical. Vaccines are an important technological advancement that gives society one measure to help combat disease. I understand that many, especially those in the southern Bible belt, are reluctant because certain vaccines are made from the tissues of aborted fetuses. However, the ethicality of abortion should have nothing to do with the common sense of getting a vaccination. The fetuses that are used to make these vaccines are already dead for X, Y, or Z reason, and since fetuses certainly aren’t being aborted just for the purpose of vaccine creation, we might as well use the dead fetuses for something useful. Many argue that “abortion is murder,” but in terms of vaccinations, I think that society might as well make use of the already “murdered” to lessen the chance a disease has of murdering the living.

  8. Erin Owens says:

    The debate that appears to me is “Is this a health issue or a personal rights issue?” Do parents have the right to not vaccinate their kids and still send them to school. I personally do not have a problem with people choosing to not have their kids vaccinated. I also believe that not vaccinating your children is a somewhat radical belief that

    The debate that appears to me is “Is this a health issue or a personal rights issue?” . Would letting parents not vaccinate there kids and still allowing them to go to school put other kids at risk or is not allowing not vaccinated kids go to school an attack on personal rights. I personally believe that not vaccinating your kids is such a rare/radical decision that it would not make much of a difference if they were allowed to attend schools and that most people who choose not to vaccinate their kids choose to homeschool because they want to have full control over the child’s environment.

  9. Kerrigan A Clark says:

    When your child is born, they have been brought into a world of danger and disease. You will do anything to protect your child from the dangers of the world, but don’t take precautions to protect them for diseases? When people say it is against their beliefs to have their child vaccinated, it bothers me just a little bit. And I just have to sit back and think, why do they say this. I never really come up with an answer. By not having their child vaccinated, they were exposing not only their child to diseases that they aren’t immune too but also if their child contracts it and they don’t know, they have the potential of spreading it to other children whose immune system has not yet developed. This is a dangerous place, 2018.

  10. Vaccination is very important and key to being healthy, but there are two different types of vaccination: attenuated and regular. An attenuated vaccine is when the virus is weakened or near death and is given to the patient. While it is engages the white blood cells to kill it and remember it more vividly, it also poses as a risk that the patient can get sick.

    Overall, life is all about choices. You can make someone do something against their will; it is wrong. At least give them a choice of whether or not they would like to be vaccinated.

  11. Samantha Anderson says:

    This is honestly stupid on behalf of the parents. However,it is every person’s right to be stupid, but not everybody’s going to be stupid with you. This means that sure you can choose to not let your child be vaccinated, but you’re going to have to keep that epidemic waiting to happen at the house. Never mind, it won’t be an epidemic because other people have the sense to protect their children, instead of being afraid to do so. Parents doing have failed to do the proper research on the topic of vaccines, which are harmless versions of the virus. It’s is simply ludicrous to believe that just because you have a dumb opinion, others will just go along with it and put themselves in the same dumb position.

  12. Lori Feng says:

    Vaccines are responsible for many global public health successes, such as the eradication of smallpox and significant reductions in other serious infections like polio and measles. However, vaccinations have still also been the subject of various ethical controversies. The ethical debates generally revolve around mandates, research and testing, informed consent, and access disparities.

    In the US, state policies mandate certain immunizations, including school entry requirements. However, tensions arise when individuals want to exercise their right to protect themselves and/or their children by refusing vaccination. This is an argument that I definitely understand. If parents object to vaccinating their children, then they should make sure that they are making that decision in an informed manner. Parents should be fully aware of the consequences and risks of not vaccinating their children, but should have the right to make such a decision.

    The issue arises when parents do not wish to vaccinate their children, but still wants to expose their children to others in settings like school and day care. One parent’s decision should not danger another child, so I think legislation that protects vaccinated children is definitely in the best interest of legislators.

    Ethical Issues and Vaccines. (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2018, from

    Hendrix, K. S., Sturm, L. A., Zimet, G. D., & Meslin, E. M. (2016, February). Retrieved March 10, 2018, from

  13. Luong Huynh says:

    I think that this is a very controversial issue because it goes back to the legitimacy of religious teachings and how strictly one should follow the religious teachings.

    Religion is meant to be a way to uphold human moral – guidelines for what we should do. Vaccination is very ethical because it saved lots of human lives. People with a good immune system can develop immunity against illness, but they can only achieve immunity after a period of sickness. Scientists will then use the antigen presented in the survivors to develop a vaccine to prevent others from getting ill. Vaccine eliminates the agonies from combating diseases and lower mortality rate in patients with inherently weak immune systems. There should be more actions to raise awareness about the process of creating vaccines and its benefits.

    The only thing that I see might be considered unethical is that vaccination is “mandated.” However, if this is the case, would allowing suicide be ethical? Is self-murder an individual right? Or we can go as far as connecting the refusal of vaccine to the refusal of blood transfusion by the Jehovah’s witness, leading to several deaths.

    It is troublesome when religious faith blends with common sense. The question remains how we, as people of common sense, can convince our counterpart otherwise.

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