There are many rumours, anxieties and conspiracy theories floating around about the coronavirus vaccines that have been so quickly developed – are they safe? And are they ethical?
Last week I was a panellist on a webinar organised by the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland and Both Lives Matter in which we aimed to tackle some of those questions.
Prof John Wyatt spoke about the safety aspects, and how we can know who to trust, Dr Mary Neal addressed some of the wider legal issues around vaccination, and I looked at the specific ethical questions to do with the connection of these vaccines with abortion.
You can watch the video of the whole webinar below, but here are some of the things I talked about.
First, the facts of the link with abortion:
– The Oxford vaccine and several other vaccines were developed using fetal cells obtained from an abortion.
– The abortion took place in 1973 in the Netherlands.
– The cell line derived from the kidney of that baby – known as HEK 293 – has been used in developing and testing countless vaccines and treatments over the decades, and indeed in other uses like developing artificial sweeteners.
– There are no fetal cells in the vaccine – you won’t be injected with cells from an aborted baby.
– Some other COVID vaccines, like the Pfizer one, were not developed using this cell line, but did use it in some of the testing phase.
– There is no link with modern day abortions – developing these vaccines didn’t and doesn’t require any more abortions to take place.
So how should Christians – like me – who want to respect all human life, before and after birth, respond to this? How do we balance the large numbers of lives that would be saved by an effective vaccine against ethical concerns about how it has been derived?
There is no simple answer to this question. Each Christian needs to weigh it in their own conscience and make their own decision – and we need to respect the decisions others come to and learn to ‘disagree agreeably’ when we differ.
Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether something is ethically acceptable or not:
- Ends don’t justify means
- We can’t un-know what we know
- Are you cooperating with or complicit in evil?
- Does this perpetuate evil?
- Is there any other option?
- God can bring good out of evil
- Are we straining out gnats and swallowing camels (Matt 23:24)?
You can see how I addressed each of these points in the video, or if you prefer to read it, here is my script.
Cell lines derived from the tissues of aborted fetuses have saved countless lives. We have all undoubtedly benefitted from them. When we become aware of a moral wrong, our culpability does change, but in this instance CMF’s position is that there is negligible moral complicity with the act itself or the practice of abortion in general for a member of the public to accept this vaccine.
Watch the video here: