This week, Jason at Spawn Better - a blog about vegan parenting – asked his panel of vegan parents about vaccines.
Why would vegans worry about vaccines?
Because most vaccines involve the use of animal products (such as eggs) as well as the use of animal testing, both of which vegans generally avoid.
My response was long and in-depth, so much so that I wanted to share it here at the Soapbox. Here is my email about my thoughts on vaccines and veganism. (Please remember that these are MY thoughts and do not represent all vegans.):
Re. Spawn Better vaccine question
With foster children, we are technically agents of the state. Until or unless we adopt, as foster parents we don’t have full parental rights. So, unless or until birth parents rights have been terminated, we must go along with whatever medical decisions that the birth parents or the state makes on behalf of the child. That means, for example, that if a birth parent wants their newborn baby boy to be circumcised, we cannot stand in the way and prevent that from happening, even if we object. Or vice versa, we cannot get a child’s ears pierced, hair cut, or any other nonemergency medical procedure or body modification. In fact, because my husband is obviously Jewish (by ethnicity, not religion) he was pulled aside and reminded by case workers that many of the children in fostercare are not circumcised and he cannot circumcise them. (He would never do that anyway!) So… legally we have no choice but to follow traditional vaccination schedules with our foster baby.
That said, we’ve talked a lot about vaccinations because we hope to have bio children and because after we adopt we will have full parental rights.
My husband at first assumed that all vaccines were beneficial. He assumed we would vaccinate our children unless there was a specific medical or ethical reason to avoid them. He says he understands a vegan rationale for abstaining from vaccines, but his level of veganism allows for such compromises until there are better alternatives. He says, for example, that if humans had a biological need for animal protein, then he wouldn’t be vegan. He avoids unnecessary animal products and he feels that some medications and vaccines are necessary. In general, I agree with him.
I feel that vaccines are beneficial in general, but that their benefits are overstated. For example, I think the risks of most of the diseases that vaccines prevent are very low, particularly when the affected person has clean drinking water, good hygiene, and medical treatment when they’re ill, like antibiotics. For example, the actual risk of dying from measles is slight so long as the person who contracted the disease has plenty of safe things to eat and drink and has access to medical facilities. (From the W.H.O., “Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases. [...] The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.“) I see vaccines as a sort of band-aid for larger public health problems. And I’m no germaphobe, but It drives me crazy how many people discount the simple act of hand-washing and all that it can do to prevent the spread of disease.
MY MAIN POINT: I think that when it comes to ensuring good health for our children and the public at large, we ought to put more emphasis on healthy eating (vegan obviously), clean air and water, education about good hygiene, and access for all people to medical facilities for emergency care.
Another area that has influenced my thoughts on vaccines is that they’re required for so much: day care, school, field trips, etc. And I have had to receive certain vaccines in order to obtain employment or to volunteer in certain situations. Getting vaccinated can make life easier. This social benefit weighs in on my decision.
However, that has to be balanced with the potential risk. I absolutely agree with the Green Our Vaccines campaign and I think vaccines should be free of heavy metals and all other impurities. But I’m currently unconvinced that the potential harm of vaccines outweighs the benefits.
So… my husband and I have talked about vaccines. He says I’ve changed his mind a bit and he’s less likely to just go with the flow and get all the standard vaccines for our children. We decided that when we have legal authority to make such decisions, we’ll investigate each vaccine and decide on a case-by-case basis. But in general, because of the social expectation, the social convenience, and the medical benefits we’ll be vaccinating our children.
To read other vegan parents thoughts on parenting, please check out Spawn Better. The vaccine post is here: http://www.spawnbetter.com/2010/03/vaccines-and-your-vegan-family/