Pastor's Corner

February 2021

A Pastor’s Perspective on the COVID-19 Vaccine

Since we first entered the coronavirus pandemic early last year, we have been told consistently that an effective vaccine and the establishment of “herd immunity” is what will ultimately get us out of it. Now, several vaccines have been developed and are in the process of being deployed or approved. I am aware that some of our members have questions about this vaccine and whether they should get it if it becomes available to them. Please allow me to share my own perspective on the matter.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine ethical? Back in the 1960s, two children who were killed by abortion had their cells harvested and propagated as “cell lines.” Tragically, for many years, pharmaceutical companies have used these cell lines to develop vaccines. Though these children were killed for other reasons, and not for the sake of vaccine development, we Christians do not want to benefit from medical advances made as a result of the killing of children. Thankfully, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed under President Donald Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed.” The Trump administration, as the most pro-life administration in American history, prioritized ethically developed vaccines for funding. Some vaccines that are still awaiting approval did use cell lines from aborted children in their development. These include the vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Once those vaccines become available, I would discourage any Christian from receiving them. But the vaccines that are currently available, those from Pfizer and Moderna, were developed without using these cell lines. At some stages, the cell lines were unfortunately used for testing of the developed vaccine, but the vaccines themselves were developed and produced ethically. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has offered a statement on this matter, but the statement simply leaves everything up to the individual conscience. I will tell you as your pastor that I believe you can receive the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna without ethical concerns.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? There is understandable concern that because these vaccines have been so rushed in their development, there has been insufficient time to test them. President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” however, did not eliminate testing, it eliminated bureaucratic steps normally required for vaccine approval. These vaccines have been thoroughly tested and shown to be acceptably safe. Of course, no vaccine is entirely risk free. Extremely frail patients in some countries have died after receiving the vaccine, but they are an extremely small percentage compared to the number of deaths in the same population that we would expect from COVID-19 infections. If you are in marginally good health and your doctor encourages you to receive the vaccine, I believe your risk is minimal, and it is certainly less than the risk involved in getting COVID-19.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine hurt? That depends. The vaccines currently being deployed are administered in two doses, one three weeks after the other. I myself have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and all I experienced was muscle soreness at the injection site. They tell me, however, that I can expect more symptoms with the second dose, such as fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms, if they occur, should only last about 24 hours. I do not believe the reasonable risk of temporary symptoms should prevent anyone at Holy Cross from receiving the vaccine.

What about other causes of concern? I’ve heard all sorts of things about how the COVID-19 vaccine will change our DNA, render us sterile, or allow Bill Gates to track our movements. I am not persuaded by any of these claims. The one that seems to have the most warrant concerns the changing of DNA, and that is because these new vaccines work differently than “classical” vaccines. Typically, a vaccine works by introducing a small amount of the target virus in a harmless form (perhaps “dead” or “inactive”), leading your body to mount an immune response that results in the creation of antibodies, which either protects you from infection or leads to lighter infections than you would otherwise experience. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, no virus in any form is introduced. Instead, the mRNA introduced through the vaccine causes some of your own cells to manufacture protein strucures that imitate the coronavirus (you’ve probably seen pictures of the coronavirus as spheres covered with “spikes”). Your body mounts an immune response to these harmless structures and thus fortifies itself against future attacks by the real coronavirus. Once the structures have been built and the antibodies produced, the mRNA used to make the structures is discarded. Your DNA is not affected, and you do not develop any permanent effects, aside from the desired immunity that has been generated.

I’m no scientist, and I understand if you come to different conclusions than I have come to about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. I will not think any less of my members who choose not to be vaccinated, and I hope that those who make that choice will not think any less of us who do receive the vaccine. The sooner enough of us have received the vaccine to produce “herd immunity,” the sooner we can get back to normal. For my part, I’m excited about the development and deployment of these vaccines, and I am hopeful that, by the grace and favor of Almighty God, we will soon be back to our “old normal.”

God's Blessings,

Pastor Neuendorf

 

 
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