Vaccines, Quinacrine, Other Birth Control Methods
This is an overview of the information in The Christian and Birth Control book, published by Christian Life Resources. To purchase the book click on the link at the bottom of this page.
When the Christian considers the possible use of birth control the first desire is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). That means the person will want to evaluate the setting for the reasons and use of birth control. In the previous chapters of this book we noted that because God looks for sexual relations to take place only within the marriage relationship, a single person could not have a God-pleasing reason to pursue birth control. A single person pursuing birth control suggests the desire for sexual activity outside of the marriage relationship.
We also noted that even within the marriage relationship, it could still be sinful to use birth control. Such sinning would be involved in those forms of birth control which cause harm to the health of the user or are designed to end the life of a child in the womb at any point after conception (Exodus 20:13, Psalm 51:5).
It would also be sinful to use birth control if it represents any reason other than the glorification of God. Using birth control may properly represent the desire to better care for God’s blessings or to prevent the endangerment of more children due to some physical limitations. The key element in all of this is a proper motive which seeks to be a responsible steward over the privilege we have to play a part in the procreative process.
Assuming, therefore, that birth control is being used properly, for the right reasons and with the right motive, Christians often look at effectiveness as the next criteria. Imperfect people create imperfect things. So, in the quest for the most suitable form of birth control Christians will wrestle with that which is the least imperfect.
Finally, the Christian is interested in convenience. Because of the nature of the procreative process, comfort and convenience are pertinent considerations as the Christian couple seeks to enjoy God’s gift of mutual sexual pleasure while still being stewards over the bearing of children.
Convenience is the reason for the increased interest in vaccines which essentially “immunize” against pregnancy. The ideal is to find the vaccine which, upon injection, prevents fertilization. The reality is that, so far, the results have been less than satisfactory although the quest continues.
In a previous chapter we discussed Depo Provera, the current injectable birth control method (see Chapter 5). In that chapter I concluded the following: “I cannot advise a couple to consider these forms of birth control. I feel the health risks are too great, and there is too much ambiguity about whether using it will cost a child his or her life.” Nevertheless, other research continues involving effective and safe vaccines. Arguably most noteworthy in this field is the drug Quinacrine. Quinacrine was originally used to treat malaria in the Second World War. Doctors discovered it also caused the scarring of tissue.
By inserting several small pills into the top of the uterus, scar tissue is created in the upper womb and at the entrance to the fallopian tubes. This blocks the tubes and prevents passage of sperm into those tubes where fertilization typically takes place.
India was one country where Quinacrine was used as a birth control “vaccine.” On August 17, 1998, India’s government banned the sale, import or manufacturing of Quinacrine for use as a contraceptive because of health concerns. On October 14, 1998, the FDA issued a letter banning the production and export of Quinacrine citing among health risks the following: (1) increased risk of reproductive tract cancer; (2) development of abnormal uterine lesions; and (3) ectopic pregnancy.
Without further study and testing, Quinacrine will not be a contraceptive option.
Other vaccines, however, are being pursued. The mechanism of these vaccines is primarily to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack various elements of the reproductive cycle. In particular, scientists are exploring how these vaccines attack specific hormones, parts of the egg, parts of the sperm or early life at the embryonic stage. This latter approach, however, Christians would find objectionable because it destroys human life.
One interesting field of exploration has been to genetically engineer the salmonella bacteria. Salmonella is a potentially fatal bacteria, but scientists hope to re-engineer it as a birth control vaccine.
The way it works is that the re-engineered bacteria is changed to remove the commonly-known dangerous elements. It is then instructed to build proteins identical to some found on human sperm cells. When ingested these proteins produce antigens which are seen by the body as enemy invaders, and antibodies to it are activated. The antibodies coat the sperm cells, preventing them from fertilizing the egg. This method appears to work when taken by either men or women.
An apparent drawback of this vaccine and others that work to activate antibodies are the differences that exist in people’s immune systems. The ongoing challenge is to find a vaccine that works consistently in all people.
Other studies of birth control vaccines are raising additional concerns that antibodies might not be as focused in specifically preventing conception. A World Health Organization study indicated evidence that antibodies may attack other body organs and cause harm.
Additional complications from birth control vaccines may be: (1) injury to or defects of an unborn child should the vaccine be taken during pregnancy; (2) temporary irreversibility of the vaccine, which means once injected it may take a number of months before its effect wears off sufficiently to allow pregnancy; and (3) possible abuse in providing it to women in under-developed countries without their understanding or consent. Apparently, low-maintenance birth control (those which are administered once and not needed to be renewed for a number of months or years) has been administered to poorer populations without their knowledge or consent as part of a population reduction program.
It remains to be seen whether there is a future in contraceptive vaccines. For the time being, it is in the experimental stages, and it is recommended that Christians not use them.
Other methods that have been approved for use in the United States include:
The Today Sponge, a hormone-releasing vaginal ring, contraceptive patch, immuno-contraceptives, a male contraceptive pill, and a male implant that will suppress sperm production. The Today Sponge was given regulatory approval for sale in the American retail market by the FDA in April 2005. It combines barrier and spermicidal methods to prevent conception. According to the manufacturer, the Today Sponge reports effectiveness for prevention of pregnancy at 89%-91% in perfect use. Typical use places the effectiveness rates at 80%-86%, according to 2013 statistics. In addition, other sources cite even poorer effectiveness rates for women who have given birth: 74% for perfect use and 68% for typical use.
The vaginal contraceptive ring (known as “NuvaRing”) was approved by the FDA in 2001. This flexible device is left in place in the vagina for three weeks that releases the hormones progestin and estrogen to prevent pregnancy. Medical studies have further linked NuvaRing to life-threatening injuries such as strokes, heart attacks, deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot that forms in a vein that is not externally visible), and pulmonary embolism (when a blood clot breaks free and lodges in one of the lungs). Nearly 4,000 people were involved in a class-action lawsuit against Merck, including plaintiffs who had lost family as a result of NuvaRing use. In early 2014, all plaintiffs were offered a $100 million national settlement. In 2014, Merck, the manufacturer of NuvaRing, also included a black box warning in its packaging indicating that women over 35 years of age who smoke cigarettes should not use the product because of increased risks of cardiovascular events from combination hormonal contraceptives. Because of inconsistencies with data on its possible abortifacient nature, Christian Life Resources cannot endorse its use at this time.
The contraceptive patch, Ortho Evra, came on the market after its FDA approval in 2001. “The Patch” is a transdermal patch applied to the skin that releases synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones to prevent pregnancy. Because of inconsistencies with data on its possible abortifacient nature, Christian Life Resources cannot endorse its use at this time. In September 2006, a warning of the possibility of blood clotting was placed on the Ortho Evra label by the FDA. On January 18, 2008, the FDA issued a new warning that use of the birth control patch, Ortho Evra, carries a higher risk of serious blood clots than women using birth control pills. The government agency cited the results of an epidemiological study showing an increased danger of blood clotting that could potentially lead to a lung embolism.
New contraceptive research is on the horizon, including: a remote-control contraceptive implant using a micro-chip that can be activated and deactivated; a long-acting injectable hormonal contraceptive for men; a subdermal implant for men; a birth control pill for men; a biodegradable implant; a one-size-fits-all device similar to a diaphragm (known as Lea’s Shield); chemical scarring of the fallopian tubes for tubal sterilization; a pregnancy vaccine that uses the body’s immune system response to prevent pregnancy; development of spermicidal as well as microbicidal birth control methods to prevent not only pregnancy but also transmission of HIV and other STDs (sexually-transmitted diseases).
Human trials are expected to begin soon on a male reversible injectable called Vasalgel. The gel is injected into the vas deferens (the tube the sperm swim through), and the polymer works by blocking sperm. Vasalgel is reversed through a second injection which dissolves and flushes out the polymer.
The Population Council is also conducting research on: reversible non-hormonal contraception for men using a nasal spray, gel, implant, or patch; contraceptive topical gels or lotions that can be rubbed on the skin; an annual contraceptive ring for women (to replace the current monthly version).
To purchase The Christian and Birth Control from the CLR Store, click here.