A few weeks ago, I ventured into the world of vaccinations. I’ve received over 2,400 e-mail responses (written by approximately 350 people) to that column, and I wanted to address some of them this week. I’m thrilled that many readers have told me that they have since vaccinated their children; however, other readers were very unhappy with what I wrote. The questions below are all written exactly as I received them—although many are only excerpts since some of the e-mails were over six pages long—and I respected the wishes of those who requested to remain anonymous.
Q. What gives you the right to discuss this issue? What are your qualifications? Shouldn’t this discussion be left up to the experts?
A. What makes parenting my territory? All of the answers I give are merely my opinions. There are times you might agree with what I write and there are times you might not. When in doubt, I ask others for advice or I research the question. In this case, I researched the information. It’s obvious that you don’t like my conclusion. If I had concluded that vaccinations were bad, you would have thought I was a genius and well-versed in this subject. Therefore, your issue is not with my opinion, but rather with the fact that I came to a different conclusion than you did.
Q. Were you really neutral? It seems that you are pretty one-sided. I began [reading] the article hoping that you would tell the truth, and then you went ahead and agreed with the people who are scared to be honest with themselves.
A. As I answered previously, the fact that you don’t agree with my response doesn’t mean I’m incorrect. Actually, I had been completely neutral. I researched everything—from the credentials of the doctors on each side to different websites and articles. I learned so much that I could give a detailed course that could satisfy either side. Unlike everyone who’s anti-vaccination, I actually analyzed all the information. I didn’t make a snap decision, and it took over a week before I was able to say with absolute certainty that everyone should be vaccinating.
Q. Are you aware that a bipartisan bill requiring the government to compare the overall health of vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated has been collecting dust since 2013? Who is afraid of the truth?
A. Yes, I am aware. Many bills don’t make it through, mainly because some of them are just a waste of time. As per the site you wanted me to see (link on the blog) here is the synopsis of the bill. “Although numerous studies have already found that there is no causal relationship between vaccination and autism, Bill Posey [R-FL8] introduced this bill to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct another study on the relationship between vaccination and autism and other chronic or neurological conditions. The bill cites the simultaneous rise in rates of childhood developmental disorders, such as autism, and an increase in the number of immunizations given to children. He claims, but falsely, that although individual vaccines undergo thorough testing, there is little study of the interaction between the combinations of modern vaccines. The bill lists it as the duty of government to maintain public confidence in public health programs by studying the interactions.”
Let’s review. The site you wanted me to visit to verify this bill states “falsely.” There is no connection between autism and vaccinations. I read so many articles that tried connecting the two, and the one thing they all have in common is that their information is falsified or incorrect. I state with absolute certainty: there is no connection between autism and vaccinations. To prove my point, many people who are anti-vaccination also don’t believe that the two are connected.
Q. When we take proper care of our bodies and don’t tamper with it, it can do wondrous things, including fight the new plague, measles (1/500,000 deaths in the U.S.). And although there’s a lot I don’t know, something in me tells me that we don’t need 72 vaccines (by the time we reach 18 years of age) in order to survive. And so, some people who have that same gut feeling like me have made an informed decision that measles, a once-typical childhood disease, has fewer risks and actually greater benefits than the vaccine created to prevent it.
A. When you start making up numbers, it really hurts your argument. That number (72) is not close to being accurate. I can’t answer for other vaccinations since I didn’t study them. The reason that measles has been kept in check is because people were vaccinating. It’s ludicrous to call measles a “once-typical childhood disease.” Thousands of people have died from it! Let’s look at some other facts while we’re doing this. As per the CDC, 123 people died from measles within 3 years, the majority of whom were small children. Here’s some more information. Of the 764 cases in 2019, the bulk was in Orthodox Jewish communities. To be accurate, the adults didn’t usually die. They simply passed it onto children. Those children died. How about the Jewish person from New York who went fundraising in Michigan without being vaccinated? He infected 38 people. We don’t have the statistics regarding the end result since we’re trying to protect this person. There is no doubt that the vaccine stops the spread of measles. Instead of doing a Google search to verify your incorrect information, try doing some unbiased research. This much I can tell you: one death from measles is too many. We can prevent it.
Q. If vaccines are safe, why did the U.S. government already pay out over four billion dollars in vaccine damage and death admitting they damage and kill?
A. Again, this is taking things out of context. Did you know that automobile manufacturers have paid over $90 billion (might be off a few billion either way) in compensation to people? Cars also kill and damage. Perhaps people shouldn’t use cars anymore? It’s a ridiculous statement, and you got your information directly from the HRSA, which is actually pro-vaccination. Here’s a quote from their site. “In the majority of cases, vaccines cause no side effects, however, they can occur, as with any medication—but most are mild. Very rarely, people experience more serious side effects, like allergic reactions.” Furthermore, of the $4 billion you mentioned, almost $300 million went to lawyers, and that includes all vaccinations since they kept records.
Let’s look at some real data. In approximately 11 years, there were 101,501,714 inoculations of the MMR vaccine; 120 of those doses caused an allergic reaction, for which they received compensation, and two of those cases ended in death (1 in over 50,000,000—pretty amazing odds). Many of the cases that ended in compensation were simply allergic reactions in which it was proved that the MMR vaccine caused a severe rash. Quite simply, it’s a lawsuit. Would you like to guess how many lawsuits are being filed daily in NYS? This argument is quite trivial. The court admits that vaccines can cause injury or death in a minuscule percentage of the population. Peanut butter causes more deaths. Are you as careful not to eat nuts around children?
Q. If vaccines are so safe please show us one proper double-blind placebo safety study on any childhood vaccine. Robert F. Kennedy will give you $100,000 if you can do so. Please back up your trust in vaccines with real scientific evidence, not fake news that can be found with Google put out by pharma-funded fake health sites and pharma-funded fake studies.
A. Your information is incorrect. Robert F Kennedy Jr., along with Robert DeNiro, has offered $100,000 if anyone can prove that the preservative thimerosal, an aluminum-based additive which is used in some medications, is safe. No one cares to try, because it’s understood that whatever studies are done will be called “insufficient.” But here’s some information you may not know. The MMR vaccine we’re discussing doesn’t have thimerosal. Neither do the chickenpox, polio, and other common children’s vaccinations. There are those who say that the injected aluminum inside our bodies doesn’t break down as well as ingested aluminum. Many studies have proven them wrong. Yes, there can be slight side effects in some people. Because of those effects (which were minuscule), thimerosal was removed from all U.S. vaccines in 2001.
No one will ever get the reward money because the people who are offering it will never agree. There will always be a loophole. That’s why no one cares. Besides, Robert DeNiro? That’s who you’re aligning with?
Q. I’ve spoken to the rabbis who call us “rotzchim.” How do they get to that point? Easy—they forget that they are susceptible to the influences of galus Edom, just like Eisav was the quintessential talmid chacham in his head, but he did not create the bridge to his heart, the middos … This galus seduces people to ignore what really makes a person wise and great, their middos and integrity … instead they all honor and kowtow to superficial credentials. So these well-respected and distinguished rabbanim and roshei yeshiva that I contacted—quite a number—sadly spoke down to me with arrogance and disdain. They refused to hear anything and waved their hands as if I was wasting their precious time. The vaccine issue is not about doctors or rabbis—it’s about emes.
A. OK, I’ll take a shot at this. I worry about you. Dr. Shultz wrote a comic strip that showed Charlie Brown looking at a chalkboard and commenting on how dark it was outside. You’re not looking at this objectively and therefore can’t understand the issue. It’s not us against them. It’s us. We’re all together. Everyone in the world. We want to eradicate a disease. There might be a few people who will experience side effects. Nonetheless, it’s worth it. If people would stop beating their drums about this and focus on real issues, it would be amazing. If you want emes, here goes. Vaccination can not only save your life, but the life of a child who is too young to vaccinate. If the CDC really didn’t care about us, they would recommend newborns receive the MMR. However, it’s not safe for kids that young, and, surprisingly, the CDC won’t allow a vaccination that’s unsafe. There’s your emes v’yatziv!
Q. Rabbi Ross, you think vaccines are safe? I can prove you wrong. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” as a legal terminology. How does that fit in with your article?
A. You are one of over 50 people who wrote this. Again, it’s incorrect. It speaks volumes when everyone keeps parroting false information and using it as a definite proof. Here’s the correct information. The Supreme Court has never held or decided, or even affirmatively stated as a proposition of medical fact, that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe.” Those who make this incorrect assertion have misread or misstated the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruesewitz v Wyeth, LLC, decided in 2011. I won’t bore you with the details, but I read the entire brief. In layman’s terms, there was a point that was being made regarding the ability to sue manufacturers in case of injury. It’s not in the best interests of the CDC to allow lawsuits out of vaccine court, since it would cause companies to stop trying to find cures to remove the risk. In order to institute this key clause, there was a certain language that was used. Comment “K” in this brief states, in effect, that you can’t sue for product liability for “unavoidably unsafe products,” meaning if there is no way to make the product safer or make a better-designed product. Therefore, the terminology wasn’t even used by the Supreme Court, but rather by a member of Congress, and it was meant as proof that vaccines were as safe as possible.
Q. Do you truly believe that vaccines are 100% safe? Do you honestly believe that there are no side effects that we’re unaware of? Do you consider these things healthy?
A. No, I don’t think vaccines are healthy. I’m sure that putting chemicals and other things into my body isn’t the best thing for my health. Do you know what else is really dangerous? Chemotherapy. It’s horrible for the body. Why do people undergo chemo? The answer is, because it’s a necessary evil. I would rather put some chemicals that have been proven to be safe into my body rather than risk seriously hurting myself, my children, and others. It’s crazy to assume that everyone who vaccinates thinks the vaccines are perfectly healthy. It’s something we do because we understand that the pros outweigh the cons. What’s infuriating is when people say that measles is largely eradicated. That’s because of the vaccines! Are there side effects? I’m sure there might be. Although it’s not for this article, I have some interesting thoughts on some issues that have arisen over the past few decades that might be connected. Nevertheless, I vaccinated my kids. I’m vaccinated.
At the very least, you should do a thorough reading of the easy-to-read and information-packed “A Risk/Reward View of Vaccines,” available at rodefshalom613.org, that addresses the issue as it affects the frum community and contains loads of links and references that should be checked out too. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
I read through the entire document before I wrote my original article. I checked and double-checked the sources. Here’s what I learned. The one who wrote this is not unbiased, and I don’t believe that he actually vaccinates his children. When I did my research, I used similar sources. This person is only quoting sources that put vaccinations in a negative light. It’s easy to do that. Here’s an example. On page 23, this person writes, ostensibly quoting the CDC, “The average number of U.S. measles death annually in the 5 years prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine was 432, which is 1 in 500,000.” Now, that doesn’t seem so bad. Let’s read what the CDC actually writes.
“In 1912, measles became a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, requiring U.S. healthcare providers and laboratories to report all diagnosed cases. In the first decade of reporting, an average of 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported each year. Once people learned to be more careful, the death rate dropped significantly, although by no means was measles under control. In the decade before 1963, when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Also, each year among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.”
Something seems a bit off. If you look closely, you can see what he did. He manipulated the article and left out crucial information. First of all, he omitted the fact that there were an estimated 6,000 deaths annually from the measles before people were aware of the dangers. In the 1950s, technically there were 400 to 500 deaths a year. (I’m not sure where the number 432 came from.) However, that’s only reported cases; many people weren’t reporting. We’re not done. Besides the deaths that were reported, there were 1,000 people per year who got encephalitis as a result of the measles, and 48,000 people who were hospitalized each year from the measles. Again, this is from reported cases. Many doctors didn’t report these deaths properly.
Now, I wonder, why didn’t this anonymous person mention this in his unbiased article? You can’t say because he didn’t trust the source since he used this source himself. The answer is that he’s manipulating data for his own cause. Once a person is manipulating data while pretending to be impartial, you need to realize that he’s not being honest.
To make things more interesting, he writes things about our gedolim that are completely taken out of context. He writes on the home page of the site, “R. Moshe said that trusting doctors is close to avodah zarah.” I checked the source and found the following. First of all, it wasn’t in Igros Moshe, but in Mesoras Moshe, which was compiled by Rav Moshe’s grandson; it’s not necessarily the words or exact writing of Rav Moshe. Second of all, what’s written has nothing to do with vaccinations! The topic isn’t appropriate to discuss fully here, but it’s about a doctor who is making a mistake.
It must have been obvious to this anonymous writer that he was hoodwinking innocent readers. To this anonymous person I say, “You’re a dishonest person who is harming others. Hiding behind the shield of anonymity to deceive innocent Yidden isn’t being rodef shalom. On the contrary, you are fostering machlokes. Feel free to e-mail me to discuss. I won’t mention your name without permission.”
Q. Why can’t you all leave us alone? You can all vaccinate, and we’ll be smart. Why do you all care?
A. Let’s pretend that we all went on an airplane together. During the flight, I decided that I wanted to see the ground below, so I took a saw and began cutting a hole in the bottom of the airplane. Would you be OK with that? Certainly not! I’d be putting your life and everyone else’s on the airplane at risk. Similarly, your decision, in this case, has serious ramifications for all of us. Your inaction causes everyone to be at risk. I’m not even bringing chillul Hashem into this. It’s plain and simple fact. People who don’t vaccinate have convinced themselves that they are the “oppressed” ones. It’s untrue. You’re just being selfish. You don’t want to vaccinate and are causing others to be at risk.
Q. How would you feel if one of your kids got sick or worse, chas v’shalom, from a vaccine? What will it take to make people realize the dangers vaccine cause?
A. This was one of the “nicer” e-mails I received. One person actually threatened me if I didn’t issue a retraction. In any case, now that you’ve gotten this off of your chest, I want to explain something. Over 20 years ago, I was sitting with Rabbi Herzberg, a’h, and he was trying to take care of an issue with some parents. The issue was so childish that he looked sick. When he hung up the phone, he said to me, “Listen closely. There are times that no matter what you do or say, people will stubbornly cling to silly arguments. They will look at the sun and tell you it’s nighttime. Sometimes you need to let it go and move on.”
The next day, I walked by his office, and I heard him begging one of the parties involved to be mevater. Of course, I came inside and asked, “Didn’t you tell me that sometimes we need to move on?”
He replied, “Yes. But how can I let a Jewish neshamah do the wrong thing?”
Similarly, baruch Hashem, many readers got vaccinated because of my previous article. The only reason I’m responding is because everyone deserves to hear the truth.
A few months ago, a few parents began e-mailing me, asking for me to help them prove that vaccinations are unsafe. I didn’t want to get involved until one father begged me to help him protect his children. I spent hundreds of hours doing research. I didn’t go online and do a quick search. I painstakingly and methodically went through everything I could find. Unlike the many people who claim to be 100% neutral, I really was. I went in with an open mind and came to the conclusion that vaccinations and, more specifically, the MMR vaccine, are necessary.
During my exhaustive research, I discovered some truly fascinating information. I learned so much about Andrew Wakefield that I began to have nightmares about him. Del Bigtree is another person I spent way too much time analyzing. They are both knowingly misleading many people. Why? It could be fame. Perhaps they are making money off this? I don’t really understand them, but I do know that they are intentionally deceiving others.
What is obvious to me is that people who are anti-vaccination are now grasping at straws. The many questions that are being sent to me are mainly based on falsified or misleading information. I could have countered hundreds more disingenuous claims in this article, but I don’t have the time. Therefore, I’m ending this discussion. I will not allow any comments on the blog, and I will delete any e-mails that discuss this subject. I won’t even read them, so if you’re writing about it, it’s a waste of your time.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e mails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com. Read more of Rabbi Ross’s articles at 5TJT.com.