02/06/2015 12:44 pm ET Updated Apr 08, 2015

#VaccinesWork: Open Letter to Parents & Families From Faith Leaders

Dear Parents and Families,

As faith leaders, we have watched with growing concern the debate over vaccinations.

The common good of our nation relies on all of us looking out for one another. We have to remember how our choices impact those around us. Diverse faith traditions, including Christianity, all teach us that the entire body of our nation - the world, for that matter - is sick when all are not cared for. We should do everything in our power to protect the public health.

We have examined the science, talked with medical practitioners, read the reports and statements from the Centers for Disease Control, and come to the conclusion that it is critical for the health of the public that children (and adults when needed) are vaccinated against preventable diseases like the measles unless there is an overriding health condition that makes that impossible.

Health and healing is an important function of ministry. In our work, we are there when children are brought into the world and grieve with those in our communities when a loved one passes away. We spend countless hours in hospitals praying for healing and work to better the nation's health care system.

Those that do not vaccinate their children put us all at risk. Those who pass along pseudo-science arguing vaccines are harmful particularly distress us. Vaccines are safe unless your medical practitioner tells you otherwise (those with compromised immune systems, for example, may not be able to take some vaccines). Politicians making this a partisan political issue - ignoring the science and demanding the families be free not to vaccinate their children - are irresponsible.

Parents, and that includes the two of us, must recognize the overall benefit of vaccinations. Don't vaccinate your child and you put other children at risk - as we have seen from the Disneyland measles outbreak. A disease wiped out has returned because of choices that put the nation's health in jeopardy. More responsible choices are demanded.

All of us must do what we can within our power to protect the health of the public. We urge our government to continue advocating healthy solutions that are science based. At the same time, we reject voices that argue there should be a personal belief exemption of critical vaccines that prevent highly contagious diseases.


The Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

Rev. Chuck Currie
Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality
University Chaplain
Pacific University

Titles used for identification purposes only