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Vaccination decisions must be made with informed conscience

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy visited Cincinnati as part of a national tour, discussing a variety of issues during a stop in Norwood in February. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph

In the year 2000, the United States declared the measles virus eradicated from the country. In 2015, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 people from 17 states have been infected with the illness. The primary reason for the disease’s resurgence is a lack of vaccinations.

Mainstream medicine in the U.S. prescribes a routine course of vaccinations for all children beginning at birth through age 6. Youths are given vaccinations as protection against a dozen serious ailments but for a variety of reasons, some parents refuse vaccination. With celebrities and politicians often weighing in on the issue, vaccination has become a hot topic of discussion.

The debate caused U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to weigh in during a Feb. 10 visit to Cincinnati. “My message to all parents, there is to please vaccinate your children,” he said. “It is the best way to protect them and to protect others in the community.”

Murthy, the top health official in the country, pointed out Ohio has one of the lowest rates for vaccination against measles in the U.S., tied for last with West Virginia.

“It is so important for us to get accurate information into the hands of parents so they understand that the measles vaccine is safe and effective,” he said. “Measles is a highly contagious disease. It might be one of the most contagious viruses that we know of.”

Murthy’s concerns are echoed by the local health community. Dr. Suzanne Lekson, a pediatrician with Mercy Health said the question of whether vaccines are safe and effective are, “Yes, and yes.”

“Some of them are in the 80s (percent of effectiveness), a couple only in the 70s,” she said. “For most of the childhood vaccines they’re in the 90th percent (of effectiveness). So that means not every child who is vaccinated will have full immunity, but almost pushing 100 percent get at least some immunity.”

Lekson added that concerns about mercury, strange side effects or autism links related to vaccines have been repeatedly debunked.

“As far as serious things, they are so incredibly rare,” Lekson said. “Safety is a paramount concern with the decision to include a vaccine in the routine series… The medical community is very watchful about that. We don’t want to be causing any harm through vaccinations.”

Lekson said mild side effects such as fussiness, tenderness around the injection site and redness can occur.

“I’ve had to report a couple of times a high fever through the vaccine adverse event reporting system, but that’s been the worst of anything,” she added.

Non-medical objections to certain vaccines are also becoming more common. Two cell lines used in the development of vaccines were derived from aborted babies more than 50 years ago. Lekson said the cell lines are prevalent in childhood vaccines.

Aware that Catholics must be mindful of any material cooperation in evil acts, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have stated that Catholics do not need to refuse these vaccines in situations where no alternative exists. According to

Lekson, no safe alternatives are available.

“When we say that refusing to use a vaccine is not obligatory, that is another way of saying that one may choose to use the vaccine without committing sin,” said Father Earl Fernandes, assistant professor for Moral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. “That is, some parents may choose to use the vaccines. Others, however, for perfectly legitimate reasons, may choose to refuse to use the vaccine. There is a prudential judgment that has to be made.”

While such a decision may come down to prudential judgement, Father Fernandes stressed that decisions must be made with facts.

“When you make a judgment in conscience, it ought to be a reasonable judgment. You have to take into account, for example, what science and reason say,” he said. “If you’re making your decisions based on bad science or if you haven’t done your due diligence in researching the problem… that’s not a decision made with an informed conscience.”

The moral concerns don’t stop with the individual, however. One of the benefits of widespread vaccination is so-called “herd immunity.” According to Lekson, when 92 percent of a population or above are vaccinated, even those who are not are protected because the diseases cannot gain a foothold. Failure to vaccinate one’s children then can have an effect on others.

“There is a subset of people who because their systems are compromised or are infants or… a variety of reasons cannot be immunized,” Lekson said. Those people rely on the rest of us to be safe and protected so we aren’t carrying infections around them.”

Steve Squires, an ethicist with Mercy Health and a parishioner at Good Shepherd in Montgomery, said balance is important when considering parental rights with public health.

“We can start with obviously parents do have the right to decide the best interests of their children,” he said. “One way ethically we can look at it is the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule says let’s treat others the way we want to be treated. If we consider, for instance, the possibility offensive that a parent would choose to not vaccinate, and even unknowingly bring a sick child to school or day care or gymnastics, then it shouldn’t surprise us that others would be upset at us for the same thing.”

For a parent weighing the decision of vaccinating their child the medical, ethical and moral concerns should all factor into the equation.

“Parents have a responsibility to provide for and protect the health of their children,” Father Fernandes said. “Parents also ought to consider the common good. A Catholic, in his or her conscience, ought to evaluate, using reason, the scientific evidence available. A Catholic continues to inform his or her conscience by also looking at scripture and what the church has to say, and human experience…We need to pray to God for the virtue of prudence to help make the best decision.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

Throwback Thursday: Archbishop Elder’s sick call box

A sick call box belonging to Archbishop William H. Elder is included in the archives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

Staff Report

The bishops of the Catholic church have no shortage of important duties in running the administrative and pastoral affairs of their dioceses. That said, bishops still administer the sacraments and sometimes the tools they use to do so are preserved for history’s sake.

March 22 would have been 196th birthday of The Most Reverend William Henry Elder, third bishop and second Archbishop of Cincinnati. With that in mind, an item of the late archbishop is the subject of today’s Throwback Thursday. Continue reading

Archdiocesan priest encourages faithful to “Wear the Wood” on Good Friday

A cross necklace is shown. In observance of Good Friday and in solidarity with persecuted Christians, Father Rob Jack is urging all Catholics to "Wear the Wood" of the cross. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph 

Quoting St. Rose of Lima, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

The Cross of Jesus Christ stands for many meanings. It can represent God’s love, suffering, redemption, identification as a Christian and more. With Christians across the globe facing persecution for their faith in Jesus, a local priest is urging Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to “Wear the Wood” this Good Friday in an effort to recapture the power and meaning of the cross, while standing up for Christians everywhere. Continue reading

Good Friday collection to benefit Middle East Christians

The showing of the Cross takes place during Good Friday services at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in 2014. (CT Photo/Colleen Kelley)

Staff Report

When area Catholics gather to remember the sorrowful passion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, they will be contributing to an effort that helps Christians and holy places in the Middle East.

Pope Francis, following the example of the Apostles back to St. Paul, is asking Catholics to support the preservation of holy places in the Middle East and support for beleaguered Christians in that strife-torn region, according to Archbishop of Cincinnati, Dennis M. Schnurr. Continue reading

Archdiocese, cathedral to mark Holy Week and Easter

All stand for the recessional hymn during the 2014 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati. Holy Week 2015 begins on Sunday. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

Press Release

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati will join Christians throughout the world in celebrating Holy Week, the most sacred time of the Church year, beginning with Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) March 29. Continue reading

Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary announces approval for expansion

Press Release

Tuesday, March 10, the Butler County Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved the 21,975 square foot building expansion plans for Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School (MTCES). Completing the approval process keeps the school on pace to have additional classes of kindergarten, first, and second grade in the Fall of 2016. Continue reading

Hoops Report: Alter girls finish perfect season with state championship

The Alter girls basketball team poses for a photo after winning the 2015 Division II state championship. (Courtesy Photo)

Staff Report

Perfection is the goal of all athletes and nothing symbolizes perfection like an unbeaten record and a state championship trophy.

Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering sent its girls all the way to the state championship game last year, but the Lady Knights fell short. This season, there was no mistaking the best girls basketball team in Ohio’s Division II after Alter topped Toledo Rogers 57-42 March 21 in Columbus. Continue reading

April edition: Papal adviser visits, new priest ordained and more

The April edition of The Catholic Telegraph will reach mailboxes soon. Consider subscribing to the print edition at no personal cost.

Staff Report

The April print edition of The Catholic Telegraph is just days away from reaching mailboxes and the issue is packed with 32 pages of content.

The cover story focuses on Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras. Cardinal Rodriguez, an adviser to Pope Francis, visited the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently making stops in Cincinnati and Dayton.

The April issue includes photos of the ordination of J. Thomas Wray to the priesthood. Father Wray was ordained at St. Margaret of York, marking the second time this year a priest has been ordained at a church other than the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains. Read more about Father Wray and his story HERE. Continue reading

Pool Report: OHSAA swim season sees success for archdiocese schools

The St. Xavier boys swim team celebrates another championship. (Courtesy Photo)

Staff Report

Cincinnati St. Xavier returned to the podium with 335 total points to secure its seventh-consecutive state swimming title and 36th overall state championship Feb. 28 at C.T. Branin Natatorium at the OHSAA Division I Swimming and Diving State Tournament.

St. Xavier controlled the meet, topping state runner up Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller (134 total points) by 201 points, including four first place finishes. Continue reading

Local couple shares faith by doing ‘Lourdes’ work

Mary Lu and Jim Flynn share their faith with others in a variety of ways. (CT Photo/E.L. Hubbard)

By Walt Schaefer
For The Catholic Telegraph 

Jim and Mary Lu Flynn have been doing their Lourdes’ work.

For past ten years the Flynns — now residents of the St. Leonard Community retirement center in Centerville — have spent a week a year as volunteers at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France, where more than 200 million pilgrims have visited since 1860. Continue reading