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How I approach vaccines as a Christian physician

As a Christian physician and as a parent, I ask questions and seek out accurate information about any medical treatment. Vaccines are no exception to this.

Are vaccines safe?

The COVID vaccine conversation has forced the medical community to be up front about the fact that there are side effects associated with vaccines, most commonly fevers and achiness. These side effects are not “the flu”; they simply are the immune system at work. Rarely, there are more serious adverse events. These occur far less frequently than the complications of the diseases they prevent.

It can be hard to comprehend the severity of illnesses that have been nearly eliminated by childhood vaccines. Because of vaccines, we don’t frequently hear about children dying from measles or paralyzed from polio. However, the recent COVID pandemic has reminded us of the power of a disease with no vaccine to slow it. Vaccine-preventable illnesses still do occur as well. In fact, measles, pertussis, and polio cases are rising due to an increasing number of unvaccinated children.

What about the COVID vaccine?

With new mRNA technology being used in the initial COVID vaccines, there have been a lot of questions. Here’s what we know: The mRNA cannot alter your DNA. There’s no credible evidence that it causes infertility. While the vaccine has been brought to market quickly, the principles have been studied in humans for many years.

Of course, there is some uncertainty with any new medical treatment. Yet we know that COVID is a serious illness that can cause long-term effects, even in young, healthy people. Having treated COVID patients myself, I’m more concerned about what could happen if I got COVID than about the risk of a vaccine side effect.

Do vaccines use fetal cells?

Most vaccines, including the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, do not contain fetal cells, nor do they use fetal cells in the production of the vaccine. No vaccine today is made from continued abortions. A few vaccines are still made by growing viruses in cells originally derived from abortions in the 1960s. In the United States, these vaccines are limited to varicella, rubella, and hepatitis A.

From my perspective, it is possible to choose one of these vaccines while still standing against abortion. We live in a sinful world. We strive for alternatives that are free from the corruption of sin, but often there is no such option. We detest the fact that these abortions ever occurred and advocate for the development of future alternatives that do not rely on these cell lines. I also respect the Christian who thoughtfully comes to a different conviction on these few vaccines.

Vaccines are an opportunity for Christians.

Our true salvation comes from the cross, not a vaccine. Yet an opportunity to show concern for my neighbor is an opportunity to witness. With this in mind, I got the COVID vaccine.

Vaccines not only protect ourselves and our children but the body of Christ at large. Although I’m healthy, I get a flu shot each year to lower the chances of inadvertently passing the flu to a more vulnerable person. Vaccinating our children with the standard vaccines helps protect their classmates and their younger, not-yet-able-to-be-vaccinated siblings through herd immunity.

Our unity as the body of Christ doesn’t depend on immunization status. You’re my brother or sister in Christ regardless. It’s okay to have questions. Make your decision based on medical facts and scriptural truths. Reach out to your fellow Christian healthcare workers around you. We are here to help you have confidence in your decision.

Read more here about two parents’ views on vaccines.

Author: Jonathan Fricke
Volume 108, Number 3
Issue: March 2021

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