My son’s vaccine injury has kept me from believing in the system. It’s also kept me from being grateful for pharmaceutical companies, especially ones that cannot be held responsible for damages their products cause. So when I heard that a pharmaceutical company listened to the people and created something that the people wanted - and that we were being asked to thank them, my interest was piqued. It stayed piqued when I learned that a morally acceptable vaccine, a vaccine that did not contain aborted fetal cell lines, was now on the market for consumers.
I’ve written about how certain ingredients found in some vaccines go against my beliefs as a Catholic. Aborted fetal cell lines? In vaccines? Yes. That revelation was one of the first things that made me begin to question vaccines my children were scheduled to receive. At the time, I was faithful to the schedule and hadn’t planned on deviating from it. I can’t recall now who told me about the cell lines, but the more I started to read about the process the more horrified I became.
I still have print outs of what I’d started to look up. I still have emails between friends and a local doctor who shared the same concern that I did. These other parents and I knew that we couldn’t opt for those vaccines. But what could we do? Our kids’ pediatricians were quick to tell us our children needed them. Schools were even quicker to tell us young parents that our children needed those vaccines for school entry (which I later learned was not entirely true). Some parents were beginning to delay their kids’ shots and others quietly opted out completely. I respected their decision, but I was the one mom who planned to continue to take her children to their well-child visits religiously. The problem of how to stay on schedule became a bigger problem though. Determined to not veer from it, I remember doing everything I could to find vaccines not created with those cell lines. I even called other pediatrician offices in other towns to ask which manufacturers they used. Everyone used the ones we Catholics should not be using. I was at a crossroads: give my kids the shots that go against my morals, or consider opting out. I hadn’t planned on opting out, but I eventually had to. In hindsight, I want to thank the Lord for that!
Those who know our story already know that my son’s vaccine injury now shapes many decisions I make today. To go along with what medicine deems is perfectly safe and effective is not something I do anymore – not for my children, not for myself either. With how damaging vaccines were for Ronan, I am on the constant look out for any sort of news related to them. Even though his injury occurred years ago, I still stay as updated as I can about vaccines, autism, and more. I especially keep my eyes peeled for any sort of medical-related updates from Christian/pro-life groups. But while some people were celebrating the latest discovery, that a morally approved adult vaccine was available, I held off on offering any high fives.
As promising as the headlines sounded, I still had some reservations. Before investigating further, I recalled what I knew about the first FDA-approved shingles vaccine, Zostavax.
Zostavax came on the schedule in the mid-2000s. Made by Merck, it’s offered to adults 60 years of age and older. I also knew that it had questionable ingredients (listed as human diploid (MRC-5) cells on the package insert) and that it was not preventing shingles but actually causing it. Since that vaccine was not on my radar like those on the childhood schedule are, it was only recently that I learned that adult vaccine consumers who’d been harmed by the Zostavax vaccine had filed lawsuits against Merck in civil court.
Having two options is better than having only one, but now that I’ve read a little bit more about the second option, Shingrix, I don’t think I can be swayed into getting it. Other factors prevent me from wanting it. The vaccine is still created with other ingredients (see section 11) I care not to have injected in my body. It still comes with adverse reactions, and it, like all vaccines, still comes with risk. I’m not sure about other maturing adults, but the older I get, the less risks I want to take.
With how adults are being pressured to follow the schedule, I will stay abreast with all vaccine news, especially when it’s perceived as good news. Even though I’m still quite a few years away from when I’ll be asked if I want a shingles vaccine, I’ll pass on it. Some pro-lifers are saying the new one is acceptable and still have nothing but praise for it. It may be acceptable for them, but I just can’t place my trust in a pharmaceutical company to protect me. As far as thanking GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer, for their efforts? I don’t think so. Too much is still at stake. Too much is still being done in the name of business and not enough in the name of health.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.