What a day and age that we live in. A year that began with the the infamous novel virus we know intimately as Covid 19, is now set to come to its closing with the prospect of several vaccines being made available that will inoculate us from the dreaded disease! This is very good news for humanity. The fact that we as a people came together to combat this frightening foe, is an amazing testimony within itself, much more the “warp speed” in which it was all accomplished!
There are many and varied forms of vaccinations that seem to have promise and are being spoken of in numerous science journals, as well as being touted on the daily news shows we watch. The Washington Post printed an article with the headline, “First 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could go out in mid-December.” See article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/11/24/vaccine-plan-first-doses/
This is just astounding and certainly a cause for celebration when we think about the potential within these vaccines to save lives; lives of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Many people will take this vaccine as quickly as they can, others, a bit more skeptical, will wait a bit and see how it goes. As a Christian however, I think that there is more to consider than just the potential protection the vaccine may afford us. As Christians we have to consider the moral and ethical implications, if any, involved in our decision to use or not use the various vaccines that will be made available to us soon.
Before moving on I want to explain my reason for writing about this topic. It is not to persuade you the reader in any one direction; all of us have to exercise faith and wisdom in our decision making process. It is not to shame or belittle anyone for coming to a conclusion that may be different from my own. It is however, for the purpose of bringing into your decision making process, information that you may not have thought about or even heard of in the current discussion regarding Covid 19 vaccines.
One of the first things I usually wonder about in regards to any medication that I am being told to take, is what are the potential side affects of the drug? I am often astounded when I hear all the potential side affects of a new drug being advertised on a television commercial. You know what I am talking about. After telling us for a few minutes how great their drug will be at giving us our physical lives back, the last few seconds ramble off, rather quickly if you noticed, the serious side affects that we could experience; some far worse than what we are already dealing with.
So, the first question we need to consider is this: Are there side affects to the vaccines and how serious are they? According to an article written in CNBC’s online Health and science section found here: https://cnb.cx/39dL6RZ The writer seems to think so: “Doctors say CDC should warn people the side effects from Covid vaccine shots won’t be a walk in the park.” Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association said “both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines require two doses at varying intervals. As a practicing physician, she said she worries whether her patients will come back for a second dose because of the potentially unpleasant side effects they may experience after the first shot.”
Participants in Moderna and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine trials told CNBC in September that they were experiencing high fever, body aches, bad headaches, daylong exhaustion and other symptoms after receiving the shots. While the symptoms were uncomfortable, and at times intense, the participants said they often went away after a day, sometimes sooner, and that it was better than getting Covid-19.
Both companies acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild Covid-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headache. So, side affects are certainly something to mull over, especially if you are a person that has other health related conditions to consider.
But what about the moral and ethical considerations? I am not thinking along the lines of the “morality” of taking vaccines in general, but rather, the morality and ethics involved in the process and production of the various vaccines. Much has been written that verifies the use of aborted stem cells in the making of some, not all, of the vaccines being brought forward. For example:
“At least five of the candidate COVID-19 vaccines use one of two human fetal cell lines: HEK-293, a kidney cell line widely used in research and industry that comes from a fetus aborted in about 1972; and PER.C6, a proprietary cell line owned by Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, developed from retinal cells from an 18-week-old fetus aborted in 1985. Both cell lines were developed in the lab of molecular biologist Alex van der Eb at Leiden University. Two of the five vaccines have entered human trials” (see table, below). This is an excerpt from an article by Merideth Wadman, found in Science Mag.org. See full article here:https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/abortion-opponents-protest-covid-19-vaccines-use-fetal-cells
|Vaccine type||Fetal cells used||Human trials||Potential U.S. funding||Warp Speed pick|
|CanSino Biologics, Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology||Replication-deficient adenovirus||HEK-293||Yes (phase II)||No||No|
|University of Oxford/AstraZeneca||Replication-deficient adenovirus||HEK-293||Yes (phase II/III)||$1.2 billion||Yes (short list*)|
|Janssen Research & Development USA||Replication-deficient adenovirus||PER.C6||No||$456 million||Yes (short list*)|
Multiple companies, for many years, have been using stem cells from elective abortions to produce vaccines for varied diseases. This, believe it or not, is true of Rubella, Hepatitis A, and Chicken pox. That is something I just learned about in doing the research for this post. Granted, all of these vaccines have been beneficial in saving lives, but what about the lives “electively” aborted? Isn’t it important for us as a society to have access to vaccines that are morally and ethically produced? I don’t know whether or not Prentice and Sherry are christians, but take notice to what they wrote in a position paper published recently: “The use of cells from electively aborted fetuses for vaccine production makes these five COVID-19 vaccine programs unethical, because they exploit the innocent human beings who were aborted.”
But let’s be fair in our treatment of this topic. There is another view and that is represented here by Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the New York University School of Medicine: “There are better ways to win the abortion wars than telling people not to use a vaccine. These are long-over abortions. These cells are decades old,and even major religious leaders like the pope have acknowledged that for the greater good it’s not worth the symbolism to put the community at risk.”
So, should a person who believes that life is given by God and needs to be protected from fertilization on through to death, have to violate their conscience and their faith to utilize current vaccines that can potentially save their own lives?
If we believe that all human life is a sacred gift from God, and Him alone the only one who has the authority to end it; if we believe that at the moment of fertilization a life has begun; If we believe that we are, by God’s word, accountable to preserve and defend life at any state (new life or our elderly), how are we to navigate the ever changing world of medicine, bio-ethics and the like while holding to a biblical worldview (Genesis 1:26-27; Exodus 20:13; Psalm 139:13-16; Isaiah 44:1-2)?
Is this a “mute” point that we are discussing because as Arthur Caplin stated these are “long-over-abortions?” This next reference comes from the website of a Christian organization that holds to traditional biblical teaching. You can read the full article here: https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/does-acceptance-of-a-covid-19-vaccine-represent-endorsement-of-abortion/
The title of the article is, “Does acceptance of a Covid 19 vaccine represent endorsement of abortion?” Here is the situation as seen from Megan Best, the writer of the article:
“While some may see no ethical problem here, for others a straight line can be drawn from the ending of a human life in an abortion to a vaccine created using cells derived from the harvesting of the fetal tissue. Despite the cells having been propagated for years in the laboratory far removed from the abortion, for some that connection line remains. My own view is that the key consideration in whether using a vaccine which is manufactured using tissue from an aborted fetus is licit or immoral is whether there is material cooperation with the evil act of abortion. If the abortion were conducted in order to harvest tissues that were to be used for the vaccine, then it would clearly be immoral. But in the case of the COVID-19 vaccines created from the HEK-293 cell line, the abortion was carried out for other reasons, and the tissue was acquired after the child’s death for the purpose medical research. The use of the vaccine now will not promote further abortions for this particular purpose. It can therefore be argued that we are not morally complicit with the original abortion.”
A few questions to consider arise from Megan’s view. First, does the time elapse of years lessen or relinquish our moral obligation? Second, is the reasoning behind the abortion, whether intentionally to harvest tissues or for “other reasons,” a valid criteria for determining the morality of the use of these tissues? Third, Megan writes, “The use of the vaccine now will not promote further abortions for this particular purpose.” But what about other abortions? Other purposes?
As you can see, morality and ethics can be complicated in an ever changing world. But there is good news! Various articles have stated that Pfizer’s vaccine was developed without using fetal cells! The Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life organization, has listed this vaccine as “ethically uncontroversial.” See full update here: https://lozierinstitute.org/update-covid-19-vaccine-candidates-and-abortion-derived-cell-lines/ And Moderna’s vaccine is also stated as not using fetal cells in the design or production of their vaccine!
There is one other thing to consider in making a decision for or against taking a vaccine for Covid 19. “It could be argued that to refuse vaccination (in the event that only an unethical COVID 19 vaccine were available) would also be wrong as it increases the risk of prolonging the pandemic and is not a loving way to treat our neighbor. When comparing the competing ethical obligations of avoiding the vaccine in view of the wrong done in the past or refusing to protect the vulnerable in society today, it could be argued that the latter is the more immediate responsibility” (Megan Best ).
However you land at the end of this, one thing is sure, Christians should be holding our government accountable in regards to the moral and ethical regulations that need to be put in place to regulate current and future use of stem cells and any other material that is harvested from human beings. Christians should also be advocating, within the structures of our government, for the creation and access to vaccines and other medicines that are produced morally and ethically. People of faith should not be put in a position of having to choose between violating their conscience or possibly dying without the use of a vaccine.