A Few Good Reasons for Christians to Back COVID Vaccination

Though reluctance toward COVID vaccination seems to be on the decline, Pew Research found that evangelicals are among the most hesitant in the U.S.

“Hesitancy” is a broad term, and there’s plenty of room for rational and well informed people to “hesitate.” We know the vaccines were developed much faster than usual. We know that the RNA based vaccines use a partially new approach.

But many Christians aren’t just hesitating. They’re firmly rejecting. And it certainly appears that many are hesitating or rejecting for poor reasons. We owe it to ourselves, our fellow citizens, our fellow believers, and our Lord to be well-informed and well-reasoned on this.

I’m no expert in immunology, or bioethics, but what follows draws from people who are. To the critically minded—good for you! I’m all for asking good questions and holding answers up to strong standards. That said, this is an inductive case and doesn’t rise or fall on any one point, or even several.

Eight reasons Christians should be pro-vaccine

1. It’s not the mark of the Beast.

We don’t know exactly what the mark of the beast described in Revelation 13:16-17 is. Revelation says the mark is an expression of “the name of the beast,” and describes it as a requirement for engaging in commerce. We also read that the mark is an expression of worship (Rev 14:9-11, 16:2).

Whatever else we might say about the mark, those who receive it have a clear motivation. They know what they’re doing and aren’t tricked into it, thinking they’re fighting the spread of a disease. If they’re deceived, it’s into believing they should reject Christ (2 Thess 2:8-12).

As for the story that Bill Gates and others have put computer chips in the vaccine, the probability of this is not meaningfully greater than zero. Human microchipping has already been a thing for a while, and we don’t yet have the ability to make them small enough to sneak into vaccines. They’re also not cheap or easy to make. If the total cost of making one of these chips was $1, that would add a million bucks to every million vaccines. But the cost is far higher, and you’d need a bunch of them in every shot because these would have to be so small they’d need to reassemble themselves into a near field radio transmitter.

No, if you’re a secret cadre of billionaires and want to chip everybody, the way to do it is to openly sell it as cool new tech that unlocks entertainment and other convenient services.

2. It’s the shortest path to the end of lockdowns, limited gatherings, and mask requirements.

It doesn’t make sense to be against lockdowns and masks for social/political reasons and also oppose vaccination. How else are we going to put all these COVID disruptions behind us?

For those who see the COVID rules as liberal policy, it’s probably worth noting that the big two vaccines developed in the U.S. (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) were Trump projects. Operation Warp Speed was an accomplishment of his administration. Though government funded and partially government regulated (these companies have lots of regulation of their own), these vaccines were developed by businesses in the private sector.

Trump has recently spoken out himself (again) in support of the vaccines.

3. The new vaccines are less spooky than they may sound.

It’s easy to find claims in social media that the big two vaccines alter human DNA or involve risky “messing around with RNA.” But a bit of searching shows how these vaccines were made, what they do with RNA and DNA, and how they resemble and differ from the traditional vaccines we’re all used to.

How vaccines work

Vaccines have long worked on the same basic principle: tricking the body into producing antibodies for a pathogen that isn’t really there. When the pathogen eventually arrives, there’s already a cellular army with specialized weapons ready to defeat it.

My understanding as a layman is that vaccines have mostly managed this trick in three ways:

  • Introducing something into the body that resembles the pathogen or is a damaged version of it that can’t reproduce well, if at all.
  • Introducing lab-created proteins into the body. The proteins resemble those on the pathogen.
  • Introducing genetic material so the body makes the proteins that resemble the pathogen. The big two use messenger RNA (mRNA) to do this. The Johnson & Johnson does this a different way (more on that below).

In all three cases, the molecules (proteins) that can trigger an immune system response are called antigens. The mRNA method is just a faster way to make the immune-system-triggering proteins, rather than creating the proteins in labs.

For those who aren’t comfortable with the mRNA method, there’s a non-mRNA vaccine rolling out in the U.S. now: Johnson & Johnson’s single-injection wonder. The J&J vaccine is often referred to as an “adenovirus vaccine,” but it’s more accurate to call it a viral vector vaccine (that is adenovirus-based).

How it works: As with all vaccines, you need a protein in your blood that mimics the pathogen. Viral vector vaccines use a stripped down natural virus (like the common cold) to carry the DNA coding for the protein to cells. The cells pick it up and make the proteins (antigens) that get the immune system to build its army.

Why our DNA is safe

Whether the genetic material is mRNA (the big two) or DNA (J&J), it’s not incorporated into the DNA in our cells. This is because the vaccine doesn’t include anything with the capability of reproducing itself or breaking down existing DNA. So, for a while, there’s a tiny bit of mRNA or DNA for making a specific protein, but these bits of mRNA and DNA have no way to reproduce, and soon break down. A good read on that: Here’s Why Viral Vector Vaccines Don’t Alter DNA. See also: The Infectious Disease Society’s Vaccine FAQ, the “Molecular Features of mRNA Vaccines” section.

Some other links you may find helpful:

4. Trusting God is not the opposite of trusting the means He provides.

What’s the Christian way to respond to risk or need? Do we act in ways that seem wise in order to obtain what’s needed, or do we choose passivity and “trust God” with the outcome?

There’s a false choice in that question. In reality, we’re always dependent on God (Acts 17:28, Col 1:17), so “trusting God,” is more about how we think about our actions than it is about our actions. The God who rebuked Judah for looking to Egypt (Isaiah 30:1-2) commanded Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt (Matt 2:13). You can “turn to Egypt” in a way that trusts God or in a way that doesn’t.

We don’t have to choose between trusting God or taking wise action. We’re supposed to trust God and take wise action. (I wrote about this previously using Nehemiah as an example.)

5. Serious side effects have been few.

News of COVID vaccine experiences have followed a pattern well known in the news business: “If it bleeds, it leads.” There isn’t much drama in saying “most people who get the vaccine feel the expected mild side effects.” So, the alarming exceptions get all the attention, stick best in memory, and get passed around social media most.

This tends to result in frequency illusion (see Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon), where what’s pretty rare is perceived as happening like crazy.

A few relevant points on this:

6. The abortion connection is distant.

In reference to the big two, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Counsel wrote last December to clarify the role of abortion in the development of these vaccines. Three points stand out:

  • The cells used for this research are “immortalized” cell lines: cells cloned from other cells many times, that came from a human fetus decades ago.
  • Some of the original cells were obtain in unethical ways (i.e., abortion); others were not (e.g., miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy).
  • The use of long-immortalized cell lines doesn’t create or contribute to a market for tissue from aborted infants.

Russel Moore made similar observations in reference to the J&J vaccine earlier this month.

7. God created an orderly world.

Many oppose these vaccines, and research-based medicine in general, out of a deep skepticism toward science. There are plenty of reasons to doubt claims made under the banner of “science.” And who hasn’t been disappointed with a doctor or a treatment result?

But Christians should feel a strong pull in the opposite direction, creating a healthy intellectual tension. Systematic, observation-based science was pretty much invented by Christians, driven by the belief that the world God created (a) was meant to be studied, (b) can teach us about the mind of the One who made it, and (c) is only predictable and orderly at all because He made it that way.

If I toss a stone into a pond, I’m confident it will sink. That may not seem like a theological insight, but it really is, if we look at it right. The stone sank when I was a kid. It sank last week. It’ll sink tomorrow. This predictability owes to the fact that God filled the world with patterns of observable cause and effect. The study of those patterns is objectively glorifying to Him—even when those who do it are, subjectively, thinking in godless ways.

Christians should love science. More on that:

8. Compassion is a Christian priority.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with our all (Mark 12:30). Another commandment is apparently a close second (Mark 12:31): to love those around us as we do ourselves.

Even if I’ve already had COVID, getting the vaccine could potentially do several things:

  • Encourage others who haven’t had the illness to get vaccinated
  • Reduce my ability to asymptomatically spread the virus to others (Those with antibodies are unlikely to get sick, but viruses can probably still reproduce in them to some extent.)
  • Ease the minds of people I work with who are especially fearful, or especially at risk
  • Decrease my chances of getting it again and becoming a burden for caretakers—or dying (negatively impacting my family and colleagues)

As the old John Donne quote says, no man is an island. We all need people and people need us, and nothing we do is completely free of impact on those around us.

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There are 21 Comments

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Although it may sound like I'm being nitpicky, reading your list it seems to me that 6 of them are really only reasons not to necessarily oppose the Covid vaccine, rather than reasons to be pro-Covid-vaccine.  Reasons #s 2 and 8 make at least a decent argument why we should actually get one of the Covid vaccines.  As far as I can tell, the others are just arguing against the vaccine conspiracy theories, but are really not reasons I should go out and get vaccinated.

The anti-conspiracy argument is worth being made (there is certainly too much crazy going around), but shouldn't be confused with a reason Christians should do something.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Here's an interesting article.  Apparently the cell line, HEK293, was from a healthy looking fetus in 1973, but the researcher who took the cell lines is not certain that it was from an intentional abortion.  

And on the flip side, I have to wonder, given the objections to the notion that it is from an aborted child, why not get some new cell lines going from miscarriages?  Tell grieving parents their child will live on in drug development and the like.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's probably happening.

One of the ERLC posts talks about their efforts to block use of tissue from aborted fetuses, and part of the argument has long been that a) we don't need it, because we already have all these immortalized cell lines, and b) if we need more cells we can get them other ways.

News item I came across a this afternoon: J&J is apparently already working on vaccines for covid variants...

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/j-j-developing-several-next-142318770.html

If there are future outbreaks of similar corona/sars family viruses, it would be great if vaccines can be rolled out much faster--and avoid all the economic and social upheaval we've seen over this one.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

And on the flip side, I have to wonder, given the objections to the notion that it is from an aborted child, why not get some new cell lines going from miscarriages?  Tell grieving parents their child will live on in drug development and the like.

There are unique characteristics of this cell line that make it very hard to replicate.  I find the concerns a bit funny.  First, it doesn't promote abortion.  Otherwise they would be doing abortions to create more cell lines.  The reality is that this cell line is from the early 1970's and hasn't been replaced in the last 50 years.  Second, this cell line is so far removed from the aborted fetus that it isn't even funny.  If you are a YEC than you can conclude that the number of generations from Adam to today is somewhere in the low to mid 100's.  Maybe around 125.  This cell line replicates every 36 hours.  The cells used today are more than 12,000 generations removed from the potentially aborted fetus.  Lastly, while the cell lines might be used to create some products, it is mostly used to test things.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

I don’t have a problem at all with getting the vaccine, and plan to get it when it is more easily available.  It’s past time to send the vaccine to local doctors, Walmart, Walgreens, nursing schools, etc.  I also don’t want anyone to accuse me of getting ahead in line to get the vaccine, so I’m still waiting. 

I have already had corona virus.  I was sick as a dog last November, 2020 for a month.  Still have a few relatively minor lingering effects. 

While I plan to get the vaccine (I usually get the flu vaccine every year) and would encourage others to do so, I have no real problem with those who choose not to get it.  They should have that freedom.  I think more than enough will get the vaccine (as well as those who’ve already had corona virus) to provide herd immunity.  I pretty much agree with the points your article presents. 

I do, however, have a problem with using aborted fetal stem cells.  That should be stopped immediately. 

David R. Brumbelow

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Wisconsin is expanding a UW Eau Claire area vaccination site under FEMA direction this week, and they contacted me to schedule (I had previously registered). So I'm down for this Friday. They expect to vaccinate 1000 a day there starting 4/8. Apparently, a smaller scale testing and vaccinating site has been in progress there for some time already but they're going to greatly increase their capacity.

Wisconsin also just passed a law authorizing dentists to administer vaccine, so that's helping with staffing.

I haven't been able to determine what vaccine they're using. Unfortunately, given the delays getting J&J widely distributed, it's probably one of the big two that require two shots to do the whole job. Hopefully not much worse than a flu shot.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

As part of a outreach to college faculty in our state to make sure things can open up smoothly I got the Moderna vaccine 10 days ago. My next one in at 28 days after the first. I had the usual arm stiffness I get with any vaccine (got flu and a TDaP booster last October). For a day or two I noticed odd feelings for like 30 seconds at a time in various parts of my body. I was being vigilant for side effects, so maybe it was psychosomatic. Things like right jaw tingled weirdly for a bit. Hips hurt for a bit. Felt flushed for like a minute, then it went away.

 

Bert Perry's picture

....hopefully it's a good present for my "deck of cards" birthday.  

On the light side, I didn't know (see Jim's comment) that we were allowed to joke that way anymore.  Maybe there is hope for our nation after all.  OK, sure, I'm not allowed due to being "pigmentally impaired", but it's nice to know that someone is.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

M. Osborne's picture

Bert, following you on your change of topic: YouTube kept presenting the SNL "black Jeopardy" skit with Tom Hanks as the one white guy contestant, so finally I clicked on it. In my estimation it managed to be funny, thought-provoking, and not offensive all at the same time.

I've mused on what makes some ethnic jokes funny and (in my mind) not offensive versus what is offensive. There's a scene in Out of the Silent Planet where the main character Ransom observes three species on another planet interact and their differences are a constant source of humor and they are the butt of each others jokes. It should be possible to laugh at people's quirks and idiosyncrasies without denigrating them. Isn't this what parents do with their children all the time, without loving them any less?

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Bert Perry's picture

Apart from not losing my sense of smell, my body's response to the J&J is very similar to when I got the 'rona.  I am really, really sore this morning....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Got the Pfizer vaccine shot #1 yesterday. So far, feels about the same as the flu shot usually does for me--arm a bit more stiff and sore than the usual flu shot, but not a lot more.

This was a mass vax site at an arena under FEMA. Very well organized on the whole, U.S. Army personnel in fatigues lending a hand all over the place (no weapons in site or anything). They were very courteous and helpful with getting people to the right place, which was a little bit confusing outside the facility (but not too bad inside).

The stations where you sit and get the shot were not numbered intuitively. The large sign with the number was lined up with the front curtain wall of the booth which put it above the seat for the previous booth. The result is that when they said "go to station 6" there was a big 6 sign with someone already sitting below it... and the chair I needed had a big 7 above it (because it was the 'front' wall of the next booth). Workers were doing a good job of improvising, so they'd hold out another big sign with the number on it, and sort of wave you in. Hopefully, they'll get a bunch of those Army personnel to relocate all the signs over the weekend.

The place looked like it could handle triple the size crowd that was there at the time, but it was a cold rainy day. (Also, this site just went mass-scale on 4/8.)

The 15 minute 'sit and wait for possible reaction' phase was pretty much up to you. They had a large waiting area and EMTs and such in there, but nobody was checking your card to see if your time was up. You just walked out when you felt ready. I waited out the 15 though. I did feel a bit vaguely weird, but nothing more. A couple tacos and a Sierra Mist on the way home took care of that. Smile

The whole thing was quicker than I expected, so that was nice. There was no waiting in line.

You do go into a couple of databases, and they informed me of that. Given the info various federal, state and county governments already have on me, the additional detail that I got vaccinated doesn't concern me. They also provided information on how to register at V-safe (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html) which is a tool for reporting after-vaccination symptoms.

There's about a 50/50 chance I already had COVID last December, so the 'after shot sickishness' factor might be lower for me because of that? Already lots of anitbodies? I'm speculating. I'm scheduled for shot #2 in three weeks, so we'll see how that goes.

I was hoping for the J&J, but that wasn't an option at that location.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

AndyE's picture

I'm getting the Pfizer vaccine through my work's healthcare system. I had no problems with the first dose. 

 My 18 yr old daughter got her 1st dose at Mercedes-Benz Stadium here in Atlanta last week. It was quite the production and very little wait.  My wife has been fully vaccinated since January, as she is an RN.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Arm soreness gone this morning. Fatigue.... maybe still a bit. Hard to tell, since fatigued is kind of my baseline. Meh

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

I'm told by friends of mine at Mayo that the response to the vaccine is actually worse if you've already had the 'rona.  But after a day, I was feeling a lot better.  It's not a sure bet to kill this thing--it could mutate or something--but it's the best we've got at this point.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It may not turn out to be meaningful for the vaccine, but some cases of a rare blood clotting disease in several women who took the J&J.

CDC and FDA recommend US pause use of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine over blood clot concerns

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

Annualized rate is about 5/million for that kind of clot, J&J has had 1/million over the past couple of months.  Statistically about the same.  I'd have been tempted to simply restrict it to healthy males, since all those with clots are female.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

AndyE's picture

I went and climbed Stone Mountain here in Atlanta after my 2nd dose (Pfizer). Other than a sore shoulder, I haven't had any issues.  My wife had headaches, but I've been basically normal.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I didn't realize you were in that area. Brings back a lot of memories!  ... first time I did that hike was with a choir. We were between concerts on a tour and hadn't really planned to do the hike so we weren't prepared, and did the climb in pretty inconvenient footwear--especially some of the ladies. Doesn't matter much until that last 50 yards or so, though, if memory serves.

Later, while I was teaching school in the area for a few years, a bunch of us teachers went up there to pray and sing many times. Good days!

Anyway, back on topic: one of my coworkers got either Pfizer or Moderna yesterday and had even less reaction than I, apparently. The anecdotal experiences don't prove much, I realize, but it's human nature to be more persuaded by stories than by reams of data. So... passing it on.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

AndyE's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I didn't realize you were in that area. Brings back a lot of memories!  ... first time I did that hike was with a choir. We were between concerts on a tour and hadn't really planned to do the hike so we weren't prepared, and did the climb in pretty inconvenient footwear--especially some of the ladies. Doesn't matter much until that last 50 yards or so, though, if memory serves.

Later, while I was teaching school in the area for a few years, a bunch of us teachers went up there to pray and sing many times. Good days!

  Agreed...it's not until near the end that it gets pretty steep and dicey if you don't have the best footwear!  This was my first time doing this trail up Stone Mountain in my 20+ years of living here.  We've taken the cable car up a couple times but never just walked it before.  It was a fun hike -- glad to knock that and the vaccine off my list on the same day!

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