With COVID cases and deaths surging around the world, several vaccines are ready to be released to the public. Moderna and Pfizer have developed vaccines in the US with the help of Operation Warp Speed, another vaccine has been developed at Oxford University, and still others are in the works in China.
Even if these vaccines are effective, many Christians are wondering if they are safe and/or ethical. For example, for those who work in the medical field, the vaccine will be mandatory. Other workplaces may ask their employees to get it as well. Can Christians take the vaccine in good conscience?
Earlier this year, I wrote a post titled “Could the Mark of the Beast be Transmitted Through a Coronavirus Vaccine?”, but other questions still exist, such as whether RNA vaccines change a person’s DNA, or whether these vaccines use cell lines taken from babies killed in abortion.
World News (a Christian news outlet) podcast had a great episode this week, in which they interviewed Dr. Charles Horton, a Christian doctor, who responded to the key concerns related to Christians taking a COVID vaccine. The audio clip is embedded below, but here are a few of the key issues:
Do RNA vaccines change a person’s DNA?
The concern here is that an RNA vaccine (which the current COVID vaccines are), cause a change in your DNA. To change a person’s DNA, this argument goes, is to change who a person is and how they were created by God, and is therefore possibly an affront against God, and a potentially dangerous prospect, that a person could be forever changed in their DNA by taking such a vaccine.
Here is Dr. Horton’s response:
DNA is the language in which God writes each person’s genetic code. Cells don’t make proteins directly from DNA, though. First they transcribe it to what’s called mRNA, for messenger RNA, and then they make proteins from the messenger RNA.
If you remember vinyl records—I know I’m dating myself here—DNA is like the aluminum master disc that they made with a lathe. Now, when you transcribe it to mRNA, it’s like making a vinyl record from that aluminum master disc. Using that information, then, to make proteins is like putting the record on a turntable and playing it. Here, we’re dealing with mRNA and leaving DNA out of it—so we can play the record, but you can’t make more copies of it. And that’s relevant here because it’s not changing your body’s genetic code, which is your DNA. It’s giving a new transcript. It’s sort of putting a different record in the player, if you will. And then when that RNA is gone, it’s gone.
Changes to patients’ genetic code are one problem we don’t need to worry about.
Do These Vaccines Use Cell Lines Taken from Aborted Babies?
This is an ethical question for Christians. Here is Dr. Horton’s answer:
One of the unique things about non-replicating mRNA vaccines is they actually don’t have to use cell lines at all, whether ethically sourced or not. And according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, both of the leading mRNA vaccines—the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech one—are indeed produced without cell lines.
I do have to note here that the news is not as good for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson ones, which do use those unethical cell lines.
Incidentally, Sanofi/GSK and Novavax are also OK—according to the list that Charlotte Lozier Institute publishes. They use a cell line called Sf9, which is derived from insects. As far as inactivated vaccines, listeners in the U.S. aren’t likely to see those. They’re from China. But apparently all three of those use a cell line from monkeys—so our listeners overseas can keep that in mind.
Could This Vaccine Be Unsafe Because It has been Rushed?
Dr. Horton explains that vaccine makers have used the mRNA process before in the lab for a long time, but it has never been used in a market drug before. He goes on to say:
A lot of this relates to how the time frame for vaccine development had always worked up until now: things happen slowly and over a course of years.
One of the advantages, though, of RNA vaccine technology is if this works, it will allow future vaccine development to happen much more quickly, and it would let us respond to future threats in a much more timely fashion.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if you will take this vaccine when it becomes available, but hopefully this answers some of your questions about these issues and possible concerns.
Here is the audio of the interview: