By Dannah Gresh, founder of True Girl
Recently, I read an article where the author stated that the Bible lays out an overriding Christian principle that has been used to defend vaccination.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”…“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31).
Rachel Marie Stone offered her viewpoint in Christianity Today’s women’s blog, Her.meneutics.
I'm concerned that so many people seem willing to let others carry the supposed burden of vaccination so that they don't have to. To me, that's a failure of the commandment to love our neighbors: our infant neighbors, our elderly neighbors, and our immune-compromised neighbors. That's a disease of the soul for which the only treatment is love—best shown in the God who became man to bear our infirmities in his own body.
Truly, Jesus told us we should not love ourselves more than we love others. I think it's fair to at least consider the fact that vaccinations are a practical way to love our neighbors well. (Ask someone who lived through the polio epidemic what they think of vaccines?) Does that make the decision an easy one? Unfortunately, no.
Though I’ve never liked one single shot in the arm that my children had to receive for the good of mankind, they are up to date in all recommended vaccinations…with one exception: Gardasil.
I write a lot about what God's word says about sex. Therefore, I'm often fielding questions on related topics including the HPV vaccination, Gardasil, which the Center For Disease Control recommends for girls and boys aged 11 and 12 (though it can be given as early as year nine). I'm not a medical professional, and you should seek the advice of a variety of professionals in the field before you make a decision, because you will find their opinions varied. Here are four questions I considered as well as some links to those whose opinion I sought before decided that I would not administer the vaccine to my girls.
What is HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States of America. It is a common denominator in all cases of cervical cancer. There are approximately 150 strains of the virus, of which 40 or so are spread through sexual contact. The human body is capable of clearing the infection. 70% of cases clear within one year. 90% within two. Of the remaining 10%, about half will experience cervical cancer within 10-15 years. PAP tests are used to detect pre-cancerous cells. Cervical cancer is treatable.
What is Gardasil?
Gardasil is a vaccine that protects users from four of the many strains of HPV. These strains are responsible for about 70-75% of cervical cancer (depending on which source you cite). Seventy percent sounds like a big number so it's important to look at the risk of cervical cancer more closely. About 8 in 100,000 women experience cervical cancer each year. There are 1.9-3.7 deaths per year per 100,000 women as a result. One death is too many and every effort should be made to prevent these deaths, but questions need to be asked in terms of the efficacy of Gardasil. and the risk to each vaccinated user before a final decision should be made for each individual.
What are the risks of Gardasil?
The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization stands by its opinion that the drug is safe for use. Their reports state that between June 2006 and March 2013, 21,194 receivers of the vaccination reported adverse reactions. Most of these were considered "non-serious." Proponents of the vaccination state the only weak link in the plan to eliminate cervical cancer is that doctors are failing to recommend the vaccination. The question must be asked: why?
Many credible American groups have made public statements that the drug is dangerous. Reports of adverse reactions range from dizziness and headaches to seizures. The country of Japan has withdrawn its support of the drug. While it will not pull the vaccination, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare no longer recommends the drug and those who receive it must be made well aware of the high risk of adverse reactions. In Japan, there are 1,968 cases that the ministry labels adverse and many are labeled as "severe" including "long term pain and numbness and infertility and paralysis." In August 2013, the Australian equivalent of the FDA concluded that the maker of Gardasil did not adequately test the impact of the drug on the reproductive system of women. A report in the British Medical Journal reported pre-mature ovarian failure in a sixteen-year-old as a result of the vaccination.
What Should I Do?
There is no doubt that something has to be done about the widespread sexually transmitted disease that results in so much cancer. But is this vaccination the right choice for everyone? My choice has been to talk to my children early and thoroughly about the risk of sex outside of marriage. The choice to abstain from sex until marriage is the only 100 percent proven way to avoid a sexually transmitted disease. While none of us can guarantee that our children choose this option, Bob and I are convinced that this is the best way for us to love our neighbors and teach our children to do so. This decision is not an easy one. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s black-and-white. It’s not. What is easy to decide is that sex outside of a lifetime committed relationship has extremely high risk.
Do I fear that one of them will get raped or be overcome in a moment of passion? I could, but I’m not a mom who chooses to let fear govern her choices. I’ve taken my girls to African nations where malaria, consumption, and yellow fever are risks. (We all have yellow fever vaccination cards as proof of our steadfast commitment to protect the American population on our return home.) I realize that the risk of accident or traumatic injury is higher than any risk of an adverse reaction to any vaccination. (And I know you can die from drinking too much water.)
My decision on this has given me a great deal of peace. I hope you can also make a decision for your children that brings you peace.
"To vaccinate or not to vaccinate" is one of The 20 Hardest Questions Every Mom Faces: Praying Your Way To Realistic, Biblical Answers.
P.S. Is your daughter going a little stir-crazy during the shelter-at-home order? We want to help! Join us on May 1st for the True Girl Crazy Hair Party, a special livestream event for moms and daughters hosted by our True Girl cast, Dannah Gresh, and Chizzy Anderson. Learn more at mytruegirl.com/crazyhair.