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The Antivax Movement

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Vaccination exemptions are a topic of great interest all across the media in the United States today. With certain states banning all forms of vaccination exemptions including those of religious means to the antivax movement, the entire country seems to what to put their thoughts into this debate. However, some true implications and questions come up during this debate. The question of an individual’s unalienable rights is by far the largest question that many are trying to answer.

Within this question, religion becomes the biggest sound of opposition of vaccines. While the right to practice one’s own religion is protected under the first amendment, some question whether not allowing exemption violates one’s first amendment rights. They typically cite specific examples such as Muslims that do not partake in the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine due to it containing pork gelatin. Pork is actually against halal standards which designate what a practicing Muslim should and should not put in their body. Moreover, does forcing a Muslim to be injected with pork gelatin really violate that individual’s religious rights? Some Muslims themselves say that it does not and do vaccinate against H1N1. They feel as though it is their duty to protect humanity and the masses from serious illnesses in spite of their own theological views.

This blurry line in which some practitioners are for and some are against vaccination happens in two other religions as well: Christianity and Buddhism. Even within the different denominations of Christianity is the debate divided. For example, parts of the Catholic faith do not believe in certain vaccinations such as chicken pox, hepatitis, and rubella vaccines due to the process in which they are made. Bacteria that are used in certain vaccines are cultured in cell lines which are descendent cells from voluntary aborted fetal tissue. While the Catholic church does make the distinction that the cells used in these cultures are descendants from an aborted fetus from over forty years ago, they still make a hard stance that using even the descendent cells is a grave crime against nature. Not all Catholic make this hard line on abortion and accept vaccinations as means to “strengthen solidarity with other humans”, and in addition, some Catholics cite that since vaccines are not stated as a problem in the catechism then they are fine to use.

The other religious example surprisingly does not come from an Abrahamic religion but from Buddhism. Most of Buddhism’s focus is being kind to others and to the Earth. Buddhists generally use vaccinations for their protection; however, if the contents of that vaccine derive from anything that once was alive, its use becomes debatable. While early Buddhists may not have been subjected to the debate of abortion, the principle of bad karma forming from destroying any life and even potential life still holds true from even the earliest of Buddhist teachings. It also comes into question for Buddhist scientists that experiment on animals so vaccines can be tested to see if they work. Sometimes experimentation can lead to pain and death of those animals. Buddhists teaching would seem to be strongly against this; however, Buddhist biomedical researchers believe that this experimentation actually is a method to save life instead destroy it. As with every other example, Buddhists seem to have a grey area when it comes to the integration of beliefs and the use of vaccinations.

In the vaccination exemption debate, a bigger voice of opposition also appears – the antivax movement. Arguably, this may the loudest voice that overtakes takes all others. These are individuals who believe in the conspiracy theories that vaccines cause a number of illness like autism and Alzheimer’s. However, vaccination opposition go back in history as far as vaccinations themselves have existed. In the early 1800s, the vaccine for small pox was invented by Edward Jenner. The smallpox vaccine consists of injecting a child with a lymph from a cowpox blister. As soon as the vaccination was being recommended by physicians, parents became concerned and fear due to sanitary, scientific, political, and especially religious reasons. The vaccines were considered “unchristian” because the smallpox vaccine came from an animal. The Vaccination Act of 1853 mandated that every child between the ages of three months and fourteen years must be vaccinated. A movement called the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League sprung up to fight this mandatory law, and elaborate marches of up to ten thousand people stormed the city of Leicester. They made enough of a uproar that the penalties of the Act were removed. It seems as though religion has always been in debate with medicine on th

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