IS IT ETHICAL AND RIGHT TO ACCEPT OR DISPENSE A COVID VACCINE?
Our pastoral staff at Dundonald Church have been exploring an important question raised by thoughtful Christians: IS IT ETHICAL AND RIGHT TO ACCEPT OR DISPENSE A COVID VACCINE?
This debate has arisen because all three of the COVID-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK and now being rolled out speedily have, like many other vaccines, been developed or tested using cell lines originating from the tissue of a foetus aborted decades ago. Some eminent Christians have suggested it might be right to refuse a vaccine to protest at the dreadful abortion practices of our culture.
It is vital to understand that none of the original foetal cells are in any of the vaccines now offered today and the production of these vaccines has not required any new abortions. Whatever else we want to say, Christians will want to agree that the abortion of the baby in 1972 from whose tissue these vaccines have been developed, was tragic and almost certainly wrong (though we don’t know the circumstances of the original abortion). We can also all agree that it is always wrong to do something wrong (like aborting a baby) that good may come (like developing a vaccine) Romans 3:8.
However, there are at least three reasons I think Christians are free to accept or dispense COVID-19 vaccines:
1. While it would be better if vaccines had been developed and tested using other methods, refusing a vaccine today will do nothing to change the abortion that happened nearly 50 years ago. If the use of stem cell lines did involve a pattern of continuing to procure tissue from newly aborted foetuses, the moral situation would be very different. But it doesn’t. So we can agree with Christian ethicists who observe that since the wrongful act of abortion was performed decades ago, and is not part of a recurring pattern or project, that action is beyond our reach and there is no cooperation by people who accept vaccines with the original abortion.
2. The next question is called, ‘appropriation’ i.e. are we free to benefit from someone else’s sinful act? For example, many things done to bring WW2 to an end were evil, but it is not wrong to accept the benefits of that peace today. The supreme example in the Bible of God sovereignly bringing good from the sinful actions of sinful people is, of course, the crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus. This involved the evil actions of many (Judas, Pilate, etc.), but by faith in Christ’s death for our sins, we are forgiven and saved by God. Similarly, the historic abortions from which stem lines were developed were probably wrong, but in his sovereign grace God has, without willing that wrong action, brought great good in the saving of many lives, at least temporarily, through vaccines. This is not to call wrong deeds anything but wrong. But as we look to past wrong actions from which good has come, we can marvel at God’s sovereign grace working to distribute his blessings in vaccines for the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
3. We can recognise our duty to love others righteously. By refusing a vaccine we may cause harm by spreading this dreadful virus bringing sickness, or even death to ourselves and others, and consequently great burdens upon families and friends and exhausted NHS workers. We should respect the right of those who choose not to receive a vaccine for their own conscientious reasons. But commanding others not to receive a vaccine is, in my view, wrong and reckless.
Christians will want to clearly protest against abortion, whilst also extending compassionate care to those facing crisis pregnancies or affected by past abortions. Indeed, we a Dundonald have been considering how we can increase the volume of our protest responsibly. However, refusing a vaccine is an ineffective and potentially dangerous way to do that. Pro-life Christians can receive (or administer) a Covid vaccine with a clear conscience. Since we are not sinning, but wanting to love our neighbours by having a vaccine, I myself am happy to receive any of the vaccines available and want to encourage others to do the same, unless it would be against their conscience to do so. Please feel free to accept the vaccine and thank God for it!
For a fuller explanation please see: https://pastorsacademy.org/blog/can-christians-get-a-covid-vaccine/