In Praise of Vaccines

My Traumatic Childhood Experience

As a boy I stood in long lines at our elementary school waiting to get our compulsory smallpox and polio shots.

My first vaccination was traumatic.  With dozens of classmates watching, on reflex I jerked away from the nurse, and she accidently shot the vaccine into my eye. That caused a panic as the nurse hurried to wash out my eye.  When everything settled down, I still had to get my shot.  

Winning the War on Smallpox and Polio

Our families felt it was our patriotic duty to get vaccinated and do our part in the war against these devastating diseases. We won that war. 

Because of vaccinations, by 1973 smallpox was eradicated in the U.S. By 1980, smallpox was eliminated worldwide. This was a huge victory. Immunization saved countless lives and prevented immeasurable suffering.

Thanks to vaccines, the U.S. has been polio free since 1979, and polio was eliminated worldwide in 2018. Vaccines prevented the deaths, suffering, and paralysis of countless children.

Other Immunizations

Thankfully, there are other vaccines.  Unfortunately, many of those came too late to spare me.  I suffered with measles, mumps, chicken pox, and rubella. I remember our family doctor making a house call when I was bedridden with mumps. Gratefully, I didn’t suffer from any long term side effects from these childhood diseases.

Today, I am grateful for annual flu shots, pneumonia vaccines, and shingles vaccines.

Compulsory Vaccinations

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of compulsory vaccinations. The Court  upheld mandatory smallpox vaccinations over personal and  religious objections. (Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905).) That ruling still stands.

The Court explained that:

  • A community has a “self-defense right” of “paramount necessity” to protect itself from a communicable disease which threatens the safety of its members.
  • The rule of law constrains true liberty, which cannot exist if each individual is allowed to act without regard to the injury that his or her actions might cause others.
  • When determining the legality of a statute enacted to protect public health and safety, the Court found it immaterial that some doctors and patients thought the vaccination worthless or even injurious.
  • The state has the right to rely on a qualified medical board in choosing between opposing medical theories.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Officially Supports Immunization.

On January 19, 2021, the First Presidency reiterated the church’s support for vaccinations:

“In word and deed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported vaccinations for generations. As a prominent component of our humanitarian efforts, the Church has funded, distributed and administered life-saving vaccines throughout the world. . . . Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life. . . .

“Now, COVID-19 vaccines that many have worked, prayed, and fasted for are being developed . . . . The Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. . . .” (First Presidency Statement on Vaccinations, Jan. 19, 2021)

The Prophet and Apostles Lead by Example

“My wife, Wendy, and I were vaccinated today against COVID-19. We are very grateful. . . .   We are thankful for the countless doctors, scientists, researchers, manufacturers, government leaders, and others who have performed the grueling work required to make this vaccine available. We have prayed often for this literal godsend.” (Jan. 19, 2021 post on Facebook and Twitter)

(See: “List of diseases eliminated from the Unites States,” “Eradication of infectious diseases, “ Wikipedia; “Senior church leaders vaccinated and urge members…” Tad Walch, Deseret News, Jan 19,2021)

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