alexa On polio campaign, the Catholic Church got it wrong again on a medical issue - Daily Nation

On polio campaign, the Catholic Church got it wrong again on a medical issue

Monday August 10 2015

Vials of the polio vaccine being used in the

Vials of the polio vaccine being used in the ongoing polio vaccination programme are displayed at a laboratory at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi on August 4, 2015. Journalists visited the hospital to check on the progress of the vaccination. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The Catholic Church last week opposed the ongoing polio vaccination, claiming that the vaccine was contaminated. It even mobilised Catholic MPs to use their legislative powers to stop it.

The church also asked its laity not to take their children for vaccination. Catholics constituted slightly more than a fifth of the country’s population at the last count, so the pronouncements of their leaders carry some weight.

The church even had tests performed on the vaccine, which it claimed showed traces of contamination.

It was wrong.

The church’s claims about polio also turned out to be rumours based on ignorance and superstition, just as I expected. Sadly, the drama had to go all the way to a lab to certify what all right-thinking persons believed.

The vaccine was fine; it was the church that had a problem.


This church has a habit of opposing medical advancement at every turn. It always cries wolf when a new vaccine or medical initiative appears round the corner. If the vaccine has anything to do with a woman’s reproductive system, opposition is guaranteed.

Last year it was the same group that opposed the government-administered tetanus vaccine. Then, as now, they were wrong.

The Catholic Church seems hell-bent on paranoia-mongering about vaccines.

Earlier in the year, it was the only church that opposed a significant medical advancement that sought to save lives in the United Kingdom. The British Parliament was voting on the so-called three-parent babies, who will have genetic information from three individuals.

The reason for incorporating DNA from three individuals at conception is to eliminate the chance of having babies with incurable genetic diseases.

The Catholic Church opposed the move because its use would, in some cases, lead to the destruction of embryos.

While that is true, babies born with defective mitochondria die within their first year. Women with the defect cannot give birth to healthy children. The question here is whether it is better to have children born with a definite, stunted lifespan or to support mitochondrial treatment. Does any god really want to ensure that women never celebrate their child’s first birthday?

If the Catholic Church really believes that life begins at conception, it should lobby to have all IVF clinics banned, since they will always lead to the creation of embryos that will not all be carried to term.

The Catholic Church’s stance that life begins at conception is important to Kenyans. It was introduced to the Constitution by religious persons as an eternal safeguard against abortion.

Even then, some religious groups voted against the Constitution because they believed it would turn all our children into homosexuals who abort every fortnight (I have paraphrased a bit but that was the gist).

Conception isn’t instant; it is a process, so life cannot begin at conception.

There really shouldn’t be much of a worry about destroyed embryos and life beginning at conception. Every month, if a woman’s egg is not fertilised by a sperm, it is lost. The female body is the greatest destroyer of human eggs and embryos by design.

More embryos are lost by accident than by deliberate action. If you believe in a god with creative powers, you would have to agree that He (or She) takes a very relaxed view of the destruction of embryos and eggs.

He or (She) seems to have designed a biological system that does it repeatedly.

If it is okay for a woman’s body to automatically destroy hundreds of thousands of eggs in the course of a lifetime, what is wrong with a few such eggs being destroyed in a laboratory? Or if one chooses not to carry a pregnancy to term?

The pharmacy of a certain hospital with ties to the Catholic Church refuses to stock contraceptive pills on “principle”. A pharmacist’s job is to give you drugs, not try to convert you and pass judgement on you.

If you disapprove of certain medications because of your beliefs, you should not become pharmacists. Do not use a medical dispensary as a pulpit. I’m tired of the church’s malign influence on medicine and medical procedures.

There are times when medical advances pose moral concerns, but polio vaccines are based on settled science. The research has been extensive, the questions settled.

The vaccine is more than 60 years old. Polio has gone from a disease that affected a US president to one now found only in three countries Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Polio remains with us because of human ignorance. While the right to refuse medical treatment should be protected, remember that we live in a society.

For social animals, a deadly communicable disease is a collective death sentence. Refusing the polio vaccine is an act of biological terrorism that enables human agents to harbour the disease and cause it to blight future generations.

If you do not want to take the polio vaccine, you should be isolated from society. You cannot be allowed into the human herd if you refuse to take your medicines, as you are endangering future members of the species.

I still do not understand why we exempt churches from taxes, and for that, are constantly barraged by their superstitious stance on medicine. The body politic needs urgent inoculation against this type of ignorance.

The problem with groups that believe God is wholly on their side is that compromise and concession are both unnecessary and sinful. They will not listen to reason or scientific expertise, believing that only their prayers, sacred oils and holy water can protect us from microbes.

The church should go back to debating engrossing theological issues such as how many angels can fit on the head of a pin like St Aquinas did.

Let doctors and scientists handle medicine and research as the church collects offerings.

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