In the wake of a recent measles outbreak at Disneyland resort, the vaccine debate has been heating up.
Though no recent statements have been made by Church officials, as far back as 1978, the First Presidency of the Church has expressed "deep concern" that parents were not getting their children properly vaccinated. In their statement, they said:
"We urge members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protect their own children through immunization. Then they may wish to join other public-spirited citizens in efforts to eradicate ignorance and apathy that have caused the disturbingly low levels of childhood immunization.
“Failure to act could subject untold thousands to preventable lifelong physical or mental impairment, including paralysis, blindness, deafness, heart damage and mental retardation.
“Immunization campaigns in the United States and other nations, if successful, will end much needless suffering and erase the potential threat of epidemics. Such efforts are deserving of our full support.”
Seven years later, in 1985, the Church published a reminder to encourage members to get their children vaccinated. Its words echo concerns voiced in today's vaccine debates:
"Today, with the use of immunizations, these diseases are becoming more and more uncommon. In fact, they are so uncommon that many parents have become lax about immunizing their children. Some feel that there is no need; others fear adverse side effects. But parents have an obligation to protect their families through immunization."
In the year 2000, The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women again encouraged members to immunize: "We can protect ourselves and our families from some diseases by getting immunizations. For some diseases we need only one immunization, but for other diseases we may need several immunizations at certain time intervals."
Missionaries in particular are encouraged to receive regular immunizations at the appropriate ages, along with additional special immunizations as called for in their service area. A 2007 Ensign article by Donald B. Doty, M.D., then Chairman of Missionary Department Health Services, explains: "The advantages of immunization overwhelmingly exceed the minuscule risks of receiving vaccines. Immunization renders an individual resistant to disease for varying time periods. Maintaining immunity may require a booster injection."
As with all general counsel, members are encouraged to carefully consider prophetic guidance and then seek personal revelation when it comes to their unique circumstances and their families.
Recent Church Actions Regarding Immunizations
Since the time of these statements, the Church has since shown further support of immunizations worldwide with action. in 2003, the Church began to fiscally support immunization efforts with a $3 million donation to the Measles and Rubella Initiative. This movement, which provided measles vaccinations to children in 40 different countries, was also supported by the World Health Initiative, American Red Cross, and other health-conscious organizations.
More recently, the Church has continued to work towards a worldwide goal to eliminate preventable diseases, donating approximately $1.5 million every year for immunization supplies such as vaccines and syringes.
The Church has shared more interesting statistics on its work with vaccinations between 2003 and 2012:
- Approximately 60,000 Church volunteers donated time to vaccination programs
- These volunteers donated a combined 766,000 service hours, including support for localized health systems that administer measles vaccines
- Their efforts reached more than 100 million children and youth
- The work took place in 35 countries on 6 continents
In 2012, LDS Humanitarian Services’ goals for the initiative include a commitment of $1.9 million (USD), almost half of which went to increase the percent of children who receive the free immunizations.
Members can learn more about the Church's global health efforts through the Church Humanitarian Services website. They can also donate to this and similar causes on their Church tithing slip.