Vaccines in Court: Rights and Responsibilities
On March 14, 2019, the Northern Kentucky Health Department issued a statement regarding the chickenpox (varicella) outbreak at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky. There are currently 32 confirmed cases. Because of the increasing number of cases of the highly contagious disease, the Health Department “has instructed that all students without proof of vaccination or proof of immunity against chickenpox will not be allowed to attend school until 21 days after the onset of rash for the last ill student or staff member”. This includes sports, school events, and extracurricular activities.
Jerome Kunkel, a senior basketball player at the school, refuses to get the chickenpox vaccine, citing his Christian faith. He and his father allege that he's being discriminated against because of religious beliefs. They object to the varicella vaccine because they believe it’s derived from aborted fetuses. “And of course, as Christians, we're against abortion," Mr. Kunkel said. In response, Jeremy is suing the health department.
Vaccines and Fetal Cells
In 1941, it was found that infants born with rubella (German measles; Three-day measles) suffered from:
Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
At the height of a rubella epidemic in the mid-1960s, 1% of all births were affected. In some cases, women who were infected with rubella while pregnant terminated their pregnancies due to these risks. Following one such abortion, vaccine research scientists were able to isolate the rubella virus in fetal kidney cells. At the same time, it was found that many different viruses grew well in the lung cells of an aborted fetus. (Women continue to be screened for rubella immunity early in their pregnancies.)
One way that viruses are adapted for use in vaccines is to alter them so that they’re no longer able to grow well in the human body:
The rubella cells were first removed from the human (fetus) cells and placed in a cell culture: the process of removing cells from living tissues and growing them in an artificial environment. The cells were then placed in a lower-than-normal body temperature environment to multiply
In order to keep multiplying, the rubella cells adapted to become better at growing at the lower temperature, thus losing its original ability to grow well and cause disease at normal body temperatures
Later, when it’s used in a vaccine and injected into a living human body at normal temperature, it still provokes an immune response but can’t multiply enough to cause illness (live but weakened vaccine)
Fetal cells were used to begin the cell cultures in preparation of the following vaccines:
Rubella (MMR: measles, mumps, Rubella)
Zostavax: shingles vaccine
Imovax: rabies vaccine
According to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the cultured (or descendent) cells are the medium in which these vaccines are prepared. They’re not the cells of the aborted child. The cultured cell lines under consideration were begun using cells taken from one or more fetuses aborted over 40 years ago. Since that time the cell lines have grown independently.
“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”
The court date is scheduled for April 1, 2019.