While I’ve discussed this before, the opposition of anti-abortionists to the MMR vaccine–specifically the “R” component that protects against rubella–seems topical, especially since some prominent Republican politicians, to their everlasting shame, are playing footsie with anti-vaccinationism (boldface mine):
As the measles outbreak focuses attention on parents who object to vaccination, some pro-life groups argue one culprit contributing to the problem is actually Merck, which makes the only measles vaccine available in the U.S. And some have begun a new campaign this week to pressure the drug maker to alter the composition of its vaccine.
At issue is the MMR – or measles, mumps and rubella – combination vaccine sold by Merck. Pro-life groups say they object to the rubella component on religious grounds because it was made using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. As a result, the groups say pro-life supporters have avoided the MMR vaccine ever since Merck ended production in 2009 of a dedicated measles vaccine.
“The current outbreak would not be as severe or widespread if parents had the ability to access separate vaccines,” says Debi Vinnedge, the director of Children of God for Life, a non-profit, pro-life organization. “Parents are being unfairly targeted as the problem when Merck is the problem. If they had the separate doses available more people would have been vaccinated.”
To what extent a separate measles vaccine might mitigate any recent outbreak or uptick in the disease is unclear. Children of God for Life and the American Life League, another pro-life group that this week has called for Merck to change its vaccine production, are uncertain of the number of supporters who would vaccinate their children if MMR was not offered only as a combined product….
Both organizations, meanwhile, maintain that they do not oppose vaccines. “We don’t have a problem with vaccination, in and of itself. That’s not our mission,” says a spokesman for American Life League, which mails materials to up to 60,000 U.S. households. “The issue is that some people have an ethical concern receiving the rubella vaccine because of where it comes from.”
I think this is why some Republicans are hedging here: fear of radical anti-abortionists. That said, there is a horrific irony in all of this (boldface added):
The rubella virus, when it infects pregnant women in the first six months of pregnancy causes birth defects. Usually this is deafness accompanied by vision problems and heart defects, though even more serious problems often occur including mental retardation. Today, abortion is recommended in those exceptional circumstances where it does happen. While rubella fortunately isn’t a concern anymore–it’s the “R” in the MMR vaccine–in the pre-vaccine era, it was a terrifying prospect and led to underground acceptance of abortion–it was the circumstance, even though rare, where most people would ‘allow’ an abortion (boldface mine):
Reagan, a historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says German measles, especially during its 1963-65 epidemic, created so much anxiety in America because “a woman might have it and have no symptoms. But if she caught the virus during pregnancy, it could harm the developing fetus,” resulting in infant death or birth defects including blindness, deafness, mental retardation or heart malformations.
“These were very frightening potential outcomes, and they shook the public’s confidence that most babies would survive birth and be healthy and normal,” Reagan said….
“The early abortion-rights movement began at this time, with this concern for expectant mothers, and for families who appeared to be the perfect, idealized 1950s, 1960s family,” she said. “To have the group that was seen as inherently respectable and moral talking about abortion really did change, I think, the picture of abortion — from deviant to respectable — and thus changed the public discussion.”
That’s right: because the cells used to make the vaccine were originally derived from fetuses (no, we’re not using aborted fetuses to make vaccine–”We’re running low! Quick, off to the Abortionplex!”), anti-abortion activists are increasing the likelihood pregnant women will be exposed to the rubella virus and, as a result, want to terminate pregnancies due to birth defects.
This would be funny. Except for the sick people. And losing herd immunity. Not funny at all.
If only scientists would do something like invent a shot you could take to prevent this…