[Avodah] Vaccinations - Rav Asher Weiss
seinfeld at daasbooks.com
Mon Jan 7 21:59:52 PST 2019
The Rav states:
> However, in my humble opinion, this claim is completely and totally
> devoid of substance, because all studies that were done responsibly
> establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that, with the exception of
> mild side-effects, it is not at all common for vaccines to have severe
> ramifications, and there are no known cases where death was caused by
> vaccination for certain, even though hundreds of millions of children
> have been routinely vaccinated. On the other hand, as the number of people
> who do not vaccinate increases, danger increases as well; if many people
> refuse vaccination, there is a risk that epidemics will break out and
> cause mass fatalities, as happened before these vaccines were developed.
It would appear that his entire argument hinges on the factual claim that
³all studies that were done responsibly establish beyond the shadow of a
doubt that, with the exception of mild side-effects, it is not at all common
for vaccines to have severe ramifications, and there are no known cases
where death was caused by vaccination for certain². He repeats this claim
later in the article:
> In any event, it is clear and obvious that nowadays it is not only
> permissible to vaccinate, but there is even an obligation, on order to
> prevent danger to the individual and the public. Even if in their time,
> hundreds of years ago, they vacillated, it was only because there were
> indeed children who died from the vaccine, as is evident from their
> words. This is not true of today's vaccines, so there is a bona fide
> obligation to vaccinate.
But this is exactly the point of fact in dispute by the anti-vexers.
According to the NIH, there have indeed been cases - roughly 1 in a million
- where the death can be attributed to the vaccination. See:
Now, even if you argue that the risk of death from the vaccine is tiny in
comparison to the risk of death from the disease, is that true?
1, Try telling that to the parents of those 5 kids who died from
vaccination-induced anaphylaxis. I¹m not sure they would agree with this
cheshbone. It¹s like playing Russian roulette - only instead of 6 bullets,
there are a million. Someone¹s going to get that bullet, hope it¹s not my
2, How effective is the MMR? According to the CDC, about 98%. That means
that 1 in 50 kids are getting the shots with the small but real risk
thereof, and not being protected. Moreover, the immunity appears to wane
over time (again, according to the CDC -
3, Now that most kids are vaccinated, how risky is it really not to
vaccinate? His argument that ³if many people refuse vaccination, there is a
risk that epidemics will break out² doesn¹t seem strong enough to compel
parents to impose this risk of death on their child which does not even have
a 100% effectiveness rate.
He uses the example of a makaa (fence around a place where one could fall).
How effective is this fence, assuming it is built and used correctly? Can we
agree that it is 100% effective at its job of preventing falls? (Excluding
building errors or misuse such as climbing over it)? The vaccination is not
like that even when made and used correctly, we still expect about 1 in
1,000,000 children to die from it. That¹s pretty scary, and the ma'aka
mitzvah does not readily and obviously apply here. The essence of a ma¹aka
is that it is a 100% protection against a possible danger (nobody knows the
level of danger without a ma¹aka, I propose 1 in a thousand (.1% percent as
a good-faith estimate). To repeat, a 100% protection against a 0.1% risk.
But as I¹ve already shown, a vaccination is not a 100% protection and the
risk is low but not zero.
His main argument:
> if we allow these parents not
> to vaccinate their children, the results would be entirely predictable:
> many would refrain from vaccinating their children, motivated by maternal
> compassion and paternal love, and then the great danger of outbreaks of
> diseases would emerge once again. Therefore, refraining from vaccination
> is not permitted in any way.
The way I understand community-immunity is that there are some people whom
vaccines won¹t protect (such as the 2 percent mentioned above). Therefore,
if everyone in the community is vaccinated, those 2 percent will be less
likely to be exposed to someone with the disease. So if my child is one of
the 98% who is protected, it¹s a chesed toward those 2%. However, if I
decide not to vaccinate, I¹m exposing my own child to possible risk, and by
extension, those 2% who might be exposed to my child. But I¹m not putting
the 90% at risk they have immunity from the disease.Yet he doesn¹t seem
concerned merely about the 2%, he seems to think that the 98% are also
somehow at risk, which I don¹t think is true. Therefore, his argument needs
to be narrowed to the idea that we could theoretically allow a small number
of anti-vaxers, but not too many because then there¹s a chance their kids
will get sick. The problem with this argument is that the parents know the
risk when they decide not to vax, it¹s a risk they are willing to take for
their own kids, compared to the risk of vaccinating.
Based on his reasoning, I would assume that Rav Weiss shlita requires all
available vaccinations (flu, chicken pox, cholera, hepatitis, etc)? If not,
how does he determine which ones to require?
(There are 26 currently available and another 24 in the pipeline -
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