Priest Mikhail Zazvonov from Nizhny Novgorod, head of the diocesan department for interacting with medical institutions, is sometimes jokingly called the “chief obstetrician-gynecologist of the diocese”. Father Mikhail has long been engaged in activities of protection of motherhood and childhood. Since 2004 he has been the head of the Center of Childhood and Obstetrics in the name of St. Seraphim of Sarov, and therefore he has to deal with vaccination-related issues more often than other priests.
Problem: Religious and Secular Aspects
– Father Mikhail, in many Orthodox families, the question arises in connection with the birth of a child: should he or she be vaccinated, and if so, when and how?
– I am not a physician, but as a diocesan official who is in charge of working with medical institutions, I can say that the problem of vaccine prevention is hotly debated within the medical community. Opinions have divided, and now there are two sides among physicians – for and against this phenomenon.
Vaccination prevention has a serious tradition, thanks to it we have saved ourselves from many diseases. However, some experts object to this. They say that the improvement did not occur due to vaccines, but due to the improvement of the entire health care system in general.
If we open the old manuals, we will see there a huge list of contraindications for vaccines. Today it seems that they do not exist at all. Vaccination proponents say that technology has improved, hence a reduction in contraindications. Opponents of vaccination, by contrast, argue that the number of side effects is not only not decreasing, but increasing. And that the official health system is now not interested in recording them; moreover, when something like this appears, they do not relate it to the action of vaccines. As, for example, in the case of the widely discussed problem of the effect of vaccines on the central nervous system of a child.
– Supporters of vaccines often try to accuse the Orthodox of forming an unhealthy opposition, almost bigotry.
– This is fundamentally wrong. Firstly, because, as I said, the doctors themselves sounded the alarm. Secondly, not a single decree of the ruling bishop, not a single official publication of the Moscow Patriarchate has a single word on the topic of vaccines.
– Well, because this is not the topic of the Orthodox Church at all. The church is engaged in pastoral care: saving people in eternity. It has enough of those issues where there are fundamental differences between modern medicine and the teachings of the Church: in vitro fertilization and hormonal contraception, which is abortive in nature, abortion itself, euthanasia. The problem of vaccines in the full sense of the word is not religious, unethical, since we cannot say that after taking the vaccines a person will not get into the Kingdom of Heaven. But as citizens who are not indifferent to the fate of their earthly fatherland, many clergymen are also concerned about this problem.
Most priests are parents with many children and quite sober-minded people, educated, with an active lifestyle, therefore, it is not surprising that they doubted vaccination before other parents as a panacea for all ills, and were the first to be interested in the opinions of scientists who opposed vaccines. Read reputable magazines of microbiology, immunology, and you will understand why the clergy, and after them, the laity began to distrust vaccinations.
Here is a quote from a scientific article from a reputable Western magazine: “Contaminated vaccines are unsafe, since mycoplasmas in the human body can cause respiratory and urogenital diseases, arthritis and immunodeficiency, as well as activate many viruses, including oncogenic and HIV” (Lo S.C. Mycoplаsmas and AIDS \\ Mycoplаsmas: molekular biology and pathogenesis\ Eds J. Maniloff et al. Washington. 1992. P. 525–548).
And here is the authoritative opinion of Russian researchers: “Mycoplasma contamination of vaccines intended for widespread use can be dangerous due to the well-known ability of mycoplasmas to change the antigenic determinants of a macroorganism and cause autoimmune reactions” (Borchsenius S.N., Chernova O.A., Chernov V.M., Voinsky M.S. Mycoplasmas: molecular and cellular biology, interaction with the mammalian immune system, pathogenicity, diagnostics. St. Petersburg, 2002).
– It turns out that Orthodox priests, in the conditions of excessive optimism of official medicine, assume the function of health workers and warn believers about the negative aspects of the phenomenon?
– When, after vaccination advertising, which falls upon a mother in clinics and hospitals, she receives other, directly opposite information, of course, she has more questions than answers. And then what would one object to a mother if, after a “safe” vaccination, her baby has a hundred and four fever?
– Yes, medicine will have to work hard to remove the doubts of such a sufficiently experienced layer of the society as the clergy.
– Priests are the same patients, only, as you rightly noted, the most demanding, conscious. But, again, each priest in this issue acts on his own, since vaccination is not a doctrinal issue.
So I can only speak as the father of my children, as a priest who constantly communicates with mothers, but not on behalf of the whole Church. I am talking about how I personally treat this problem.
What we don’t like about them
– What do you dislike about vaccination?
– For example, how a vaccination calendar is made up. Why, for example, during the first five hours of a child’s life (!), when his immune status is not yet formed, he needs to be vaccinated against hepatitis? Not only me, but many pediatricians I know are perplexed about this.
What if the child has a serious illness that the doctor has not yet discovered? What if, against the background of the vaccine, it intensifies, worsens, leads to disability, to death? We can’t say what health problems a newborn has. This will become clear when observing his or her development in dynamics. Indeed, even the results of the tests cannot be obtained in five hours.
I don’t like the ease with which a child with these or those diseases is vaccinated. The baby has a fever, but he is still vaccinated. Because there is a plan for maximum immunization. And a specific child is interesting to no one, it is important only to report.
– What would you call parents for?
– For responsibility and sobriety. If they go for vaccination, they should watch their baby, consultate with the doctor on medications that could mitigate the reaction to vaccines. After all, the causative agent of infection is a foreign agent against which a childish, not yet strong organism must develop antibodies. This is stress for a child, it must be mitigated, and in any case, vaccinate him or her only when a child is healthy. You can not mindlessly follow the colorful advertising. Indeed, the life and health of your child are in balance!
If your maternal heart is disturbing, if the child has recently been ill, he is in poor health, take the time to go not only to your attending pediatrician, but also to another specialist.
Each drug has side effects. Take the annotation for this vaccine, see it. This is your right – the right to information, do not be afraid, ask your question to the pediatrician.
– And what do you, as a priest, say to those people who are so rigidly opposed to vaccinations?
– No one has the right to impose anything on parents, because in any case, the responsibility lies with mother. But, on the other hand, mother is not a specialist. Therefore, you need to have information from a doctor. If the mother is not satisfied with the information received or sees the specialist as disinterested or does not trust him, then she has the right to consultate with another specialist whom she trusts.
– Is there a real health hazard in case of non-vaccination?
– We are all vaccine-dependent people. We are in such an infectious field that, perhaps, we cannot even live without vaccines. We remember how in the 1990s, as a result of a medical error, the diphtheria epidemic claimed the lives of thousands of children. If a certain layer of people who are not vaccinated for a particular disease is created, then various provocations can begin.
– But here is an interesting thing. Those priests who do not bless their flock to be vaccinated always offer them other safety measures, such as tempering, affusion, or spiritual ones – communion, life according to the charter of the Orthodox Church.
– Most people tend to follow the easiest path. They neither be vaccinated, nor will take spiritual security measures.
The hostages of the current situation, when health care has essentially removed itself from responsibility by leaving the business to pharmaceutical companies, are the poor, socially disadvantaged families who are unable to maneuver.
When a priest sees confusion and doubt in parents, here, as in any other matter, he should offer prayer, pastoral care, invite them to confession and communion.
A child’s disease has an ontological, existential meaning for parents and family, not only in the first, but also in the second generation.
– So something is wrong with the family?
– The Church teaches such an attitude of an Orthodox family to the illness of a child: the whole family rises to prayer, parents ask God for forgiveness, first of all, of their sins. If a child cries, it means that through him the Lord Himself is knocking on our heart, then something needs to be fixed.
Where does the distrust of medicine come from?
– The call of a priest is to be the conscience of society. From your point of view, why do people distrust medicine?
– Now people generally do not trust everything: the media, the government. Was there such a distrust of neighbors before? Did relatives sue each other? This is a shortage of love, which is reflected in all areas of society. Previously, the policeman was treated as a defender, and now as a member of a corrupt structure.
– But in fact, much has changed in medicine as well?
– The approaches to diagnosis and to the selection of drugs have changed. There used to be trust in the doctor, he was a diagnostician and made a diagnosis based on his medical intuition. This was a comprehensive conclusion following from the assessment of the patient’s overall health status. Now, ready-made drugs replaced everything that was previously prepared individually for each patient in the pharmacy. If a person has a stomach ache, they give him a pill for stomach pain, if he coughs – cough syrup. Everything is unified – both diagnostics and selection of drugs. And it turns out, there is like no longer need for a doctor.
– A doctor becomes a distributor of a company.
– Moreover, the point here is not even in malicious intent. This is a commercial-contractual relationship, which in fact laid an abyss between those patient-doctor relationships that were previously in society.
I once asked a professor from Germany: “How many times do you see a patient?” – “At the beginning and at the end of treatment.” – “And what are you doing?” “I sign the contract, and then the act of acceptance of the work performed.” “Is that all?” “What else is needed? We have”, – he says,“ a perfect diagnostic machine. ” But where is love, where is heart? After all, a machine can never replace the holistic perception of the patient and the intuition of a doctor.
– It is a kind of conveyor.
And where can confidence in a stranger, whom the patient does not even see, come from? And a doctor is not to blame here. Now most people relate to their profession in terms of personal gain. The logic is this: I work not because I love my profession, help people and the state, but because I get money. It is clear that we need to earn money. But earlier it was all together, now the patient, first of all, does not receive enough mercy and love from doctors.
– Many believers see vaccination as a conspiracy, sabotage.
– I would not want to talk about it, because there is no evidence base.
– Where do such suspicions come from?
– I think that people argue by analogy with such phenomena as, for example, the activities of associations, which, under the guise of authority and speaking on behalf of the authorities, are engaged in real youth molestation: lessons of sexual “education”, contraception programs, sterilization, and the promotion of abortions. This led to the formation of the mindset to small families, young people stopped getting married.
– So, instead of tempering, instead of promoting a healthy lifestyle, the vaccine is preached and the idea is suggested that it, like a panacea, will save you from everything.
– It will not save from all diseases if a person does not monitor his health, and not only physical!
– But the logic of reasoning imposed: get your vaccine – and live peacefully. It turns out to be a kind of idol, but the second commandment says: “You shall not make for yourself an idol”.
– The thesis that vaccination is too simple and too good is part of the information campaign of vaccine advocates. Yes, it is necessary to convey information to people, but if you do this only in an advertising shell, then suspicions will only increase.
Health workers need to reach out to, speak directly with parents, openly, without hiding side effects and contraindications.
For now, doctors often just advertise a particular product, because the managers of pharmaceutical companies have said them so. Doctors may be completely sincere, but where is healthy rational criticism? Where is the doctor’s responsibility? People don’t believe everything that the hired actors say from TV in commercials, right?
When they say with a Hollywood smile to me or to my spiritual child, in response to his doubts: everything will be okay! – then more and more questions arise. We are not used to that. Without question, we can trust only God.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds