Answering Objections to Injections: A Christian Case for Vaccinations

Few issues seem to have injected more vitriol into Christian dialogue these days than the question of vaccines. Whenever I open my social media account, I’m bombarded with strongly expressed opinions on vaccines. Within my social networks, most are evangelical Christians, and most who post on the issue are decidedly opposed to vaccines and vaccine mandates. Until now, I have generally avoided the fray. After all, we Christians are called to “do the things that make for peace,” and the vaccine wars have been marked by more vitriol, anger, and fear than few other issues these days.

In this article, I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to consider getting the covid vaccine. Before I dive in, I want to offer several caveats. First, the question of taking the vaccine and the question of vaccine mandates are two separate questions. It is possible to support voluntary vaccinations while opposing government mandates. Second, I do not pretend to be a scientist. Most of my readers and fellow Christians are not scientists, either. We’re not particularly qualified to “do your own research” in any meaningful way, and are, instead, reliant on the work of others. Third, it is not my desire to disparage Christians who disagree with me on this issue. I believe that it is possible for Christians to fellowship and worship with one another in the same church while coming to different conclusions on this and a host of other tertiary issues. That does not mean that everyone is equally right, but it does mean that we can still love each other even as we disagree with each other. Christian fellowship is built on realities far more enduring than the passing winds of a debate like this one. So, with all that being said, let’s walk through the most common objections to injections…

  1. “It is not safe.” This is an important concern. After all, putting an untested, and potentially dangerous vaccine into one’s body is a serious thing. At this point, only one of the COVID vaccines has received final FDA approval. The others currently have only Emergency Authorization Use. Furthermore, the long-term effects are unknown. Reports have swirled about serious side effects.

    While there have been a number of adverse reactions to the vaccines, serious reactions have been very rare. Most people suffer some minor discomfort after getting their shots. Further, 0.0020% of vaccinated individuals have died after receiving the vaccination. But what about long-term effects? The vast majority of side effects from any vaccine appear in the first six weeks, according to the CDC. With 372 million doses already administered in our country, adverse side effects would already be appearing in large numbers if the vaccines were dangerous.

    If we are concerned about the short-term and potential long-term effects of the vaccine, then it also seems logical to lay these concerns side-by-side with the short-term and long-term effects of COVID itself. The question becomes one of the potential risks versus potential benefits. For example, one of the most serious side effects to be reported from vaccines is myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart. This serious condition has been reported at a rate of 9 per 100,000 from the vaccine, but at a rate of 150 per 100,000 from COVID. In other words, one is at a far greater risk of myocarditis if they catch covid than if they take the vaccine.

    Of the dozens of people I personally know who have had the vaccine, not one has reported any serious effects, but of the dozens who have had covid, many have reported long-term exhaustion, difficulty breathing, loss of taste, and tragically, many I personally know have died. I know of no one who has reported anything remotely similar in regards to the vaccine. While the vaccine is not 100% safe, it is far safer than getting covid.

  2. “It doesn’t work.” While the vaccines are less effective against the delta variant than the original strain, they still offer significant protection. For example, recent research suggests that the vaccine is 64% effective against preventing infections of the delta variant (and that is on the lowest end of the estimates), but over 95% effective against hospitalizations and severe illnesses. Those who do still get sick after being vaccinated are far less likely to contract a severe case that leads to hospitalization or death. Indeed, a recent study has concluded that you are 17 times more likely to be hospitilzed for covid if you are unvaccinated than if you are vaccinated.

    Now, it is true that many vaccinated people have gotten COVID, just as many individuals with “natural immunity” have also been re-infected. But does the existence of breakthrough infections alone make getting a vaccine pointless? Not at all. That would be akin to arguing, “Even with seatbelts, people still die in car accidents. Why should I go through the hassle of buckling up, if it doesn’t work? How dare the government mandate something that’s only 50% effective!” Of those who I have personally known in this category, vaccinated individuals have typically had mild cases, while unvaccinated individuals have typically had more serious cases. The evidence still suggests that vaccines massively reduce the number of infections, severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.

  3. “I don’t need it.” I get this. Personally, I only recently got vaccinated for the simple reason that infections had been plummeting and COVID seemed to be fading away by the time the vaccine was available to my age group. I did not feel like it was necessary to get vaccinated against an illness that had well-nigh disappeared. I wasn’t opposed to it; I just didn’t feel like I needed it. I mention this because you may feel the same way I did.

    Other people will say, “I’ve already had covid.” Or,  “I’m young and healthy. The survival rate is 99.9%.” However, the reality is that COVID has killed over 600,000 Americans, many needlessly. Let me give you some comparisons. A quick Google search reveals that drunk driving kills 3.2 people per 100,000 each year. The cancer death rate is 158.3 per 100,000 each year. The death rate from heart disease is 137.2. COVID, by comparison, has killed 188 per 100,000 in our country in roughly a year and a half. In other words, claims about COVID’S survivability are vastly overstated, often with little context or comparison to other common killers. Averaged out for an annual rate, the COVID death rate is roughly the same as that for cancer. If there were a vaccine that could potentially lower your risk for cancer with a statistically negligible danger for side effects, wouldn’t you be eager to take it?

    But there is more than mere survivability. Though you most likely won’t die of COVID (or cancer, for that matter), if you get it, you stand a very good chance of being miserably sick for several weeks. Why would you want to get an illness that could be quite severe if you didn’t have to? The vaccine could very well spare you several weeks of misery in quarantine, isolation, and illness. While it might not take your life, covid could very well rob you of several weeks, keep you from church, ruin vacation plans, and shut down long-awaited social events. As a pastor, it has been hard to watch large swaths of my church family be unable to worship with us due to covid infections, illnesses, and isolation.

  4. “It’s MY decision.” Like many of my friends, I’m wary of coercion and force, particularly from government. As liberty-loving Americans, I think we are rightly opposed to government intrusion into our daily lives. As I said at the outset, my advocacy of vaccines is not advocacy for government mandates of vaccines. 

    If this is all that is meant by this objection, I am in full agreement. However, what most seem to mean is that personal healthcare choices have no effect on others. But is this morally sound reasoning? While we could all agree that vaccines should not be mandated by the heavy hand of government, we all should also be open to embracing personal responsibility and recognizing the effects of our actions on others. One thing we have all learned about covid in the last year and a half is that it is very contagious, meaning that otherwise healthy poeple can quickly spread covid to highly vulnerable individuals.

    Most of us already recognize the need to protect others in our personal choices. Consider other situations. Let’s say we accept the notion that I bear no responsibility for the effects of my personal decisions on others. Could we honestly still support drunk driving laws or oppose the legalization of meth and heroin? Most of us would maintain that individuals have a responsibility to avoid behavior that detrimentally harms others.

    This idea is also illustrated in the OT Law that God gave to Israel. In the OT, God commanded the Israelites to build a parapet around their roof. Why? To protect the lives of their neighbors so they would not fall off. When disease came into the camp, He mandated quarantine and social distancing. Why? Because we have a responsibility to protect the lives of our neighbors. That’s why it is good and right we have drunk driving laws, speed limits, and policies against HIV-positive individuals donating to blood banks. It is also why we as Christians should be willing to take the low-risk step of being willing to take vaccines that will not only protect ourselves but others.

    As Christians, we’re called to love our neighbors as ourselves. What if getting the vaccine could help you be more involved at church, be closer to family, and better serve your community? You can still exercise your personal choice by weighing out the benefits of getting the jab, and then do it, not simply for yourself, but for the well-being of your family, church, and local community. Doing so for these reasons is actually a simple way to obey the call of Philippians 2:1-4 to seek the well-being of others over myself. 

  5. “I refuse to live in fear.” While it’s a nice-sounding slogan, what does it actually mean? Practically, it means downplaying the dangers of the virus and hoping that one does not get sick. Ironically, those who most vocally and persistently announce their intentions to “not live in fear” seem to live in absolute terror of the unseen forces of the vaccination cabal. Choosing to take a vaccine is not “living in fear” any more than wearing a seatbelt, washing your hands, or taking other precautions we take every day. If you truly are going to live out your “faith over fear” mantra, then why not run red lights, eat raw meat, and lick doorknobs?

    Claiming “faith over fear” while refusing to take reasonable steps to ensure your safety is presuming on God to protect us while we refuse to take readily available precautions. Trusting God’s Sovereign protection never means ignoring prudent steps and weighing out the risks. God works through means.

  6. “It’s not natural.” Some Christians object to vaccines because they are not “natural.” They’re artificial. They’re manufactured. Better to get the virus and let your immune system work the way God created it. After all, aren’t chemicals like vaccines dangerous to put into your body? First, it needs to be pointed out that vaccines simply kick your already existing immune system into gear. Vaccines simply help your body do what it was created to do. Further, this reasoning is not consistent. If you get very sick from COVID after refusing the vaccine, will you go to the hospital? Of course. Would you accept treatments that would help you fight the disease? Of course.

    For Christians, the fact that vaccines, pain pills, and surgeries are not “natural” is not in any way problematic. Indeed, Genesis 1:26-28 calls for humanity to dominate the creation. That has always involved work, research, discovery, scientific inquiry, and re-creation of new things. Just about everything you use on a daily basis is the result of fallen humans using their creative gifts to take elements made by God, reconstitute them, and organize them into something else. Your car. Your food. Your makeup. Your house. Your electronics. You name it, it is likely not “natural” in the sense of being unmanufactured. Just think about this: what if we were to apply “natural” argument consistently? Well, it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to do. In the absence of strong evidence against vaccine safety, the “not natural” objections does not in itself present a strong argument for the Christian.

    In fact, we should celebrate and take advantage of any legitimately developed tool that minimizes human suffering and maximizes human flourishing. Indeed, the natural order of things on this side of the Garden of Eden is pretty awful. After the Fall in Genesis 3, death and disease entered into the world. We’ve been living with these realities ever since. God, in His goodness, has given us tools to mitigate the effects of the Fall in our world. As a Christian who lives in a fallen world, I can and should appreciate disease-fighting medicines, crime-deterring laws, life-enhancing technologies along with the thousands of other good gifts God has seen fit to shower on both the unjust and the just that make living in this fallen world a little less painful. Interrupting the natural order of things can be quite a good thing.


  7. “I don’t/won’t/can’t trust them.” In the last year, we’ve heard a plethora of different recommendations from both the scientific community and governmental agencies. Don’t wear masks. Do wear masks. Disinfect all surfaces. Don’t disinfect all surfaces. With this constantly-changing guidance, why should we trust them? After all, this could just be a big ploy to convince people to get a shot so the vaccine manufacturers can get rich and the government can further intrude into our lives.

    But I have to ask this question: who is the them? Bill Gates? Anthony Fauci? The Media? Big Pharma? Needles? Doctors? Some convoluted conspiracy of all of the above? When we step back to evaluate, our distrust often does not have any definable object. It’s amorphous and general. As I have had conversations with friends and observed discussions online, it appears that the rejection of vaccines parallels deeply held political views. Is it possible that skepticism about the vaccine is more about solidarity with a political tribe than persuasion by the mere facts?

    But there’s something more troubling going on. The readiness of us Christians to assume the worst of “them” is disheartening. Could it be that changing guidance throughout the pandemic has been the result of a changing situation, rather than some convoluted conspiracy? Assuming the former rather than the latter is not only more charitable, it is actually more reasonable.

    At the end of the day, unless you are an epidemiologist, you’re going to have to trust someone else’s word on questions like these. Too many have turned to sketchy websites and dubious YouTube channels for information, rather than listening to qualified voices. But who has more credibility? Those who have spent a lifetime studying pandemics and developing vaccines, or those with little training in those areas? While it’s true that experts can get it wrong, it is also true that they are experts, and we’re not. Generally speaking, it is prudent to consider the consensus of experts, unless, of course, their viewpoint runs counter to Biblical teaching, as is the case with evolution, for example. If we do distrust the experts, we should do so humbly with the recognition that we do not know as much as epidemiologists and other researchers.

    While there may be other objections (“I don’t like needles!”) I think these are the most common ones I’ve encountered. For these reasons, I encourage my Christian brothers and sisters to consider getting the jab. That’s my point, to needle you to action. 


Popular Posts