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It has been over a year now that we have been inundated with various information surrounding coronavirus and the vaccine. With so much information available to the public, it can be difficult to ascertain which information is best to consume. There is real fear surrounding the vaccine, specifically amongst those most vulnerable and it is essential that people have appropriate information they can trust so they can make informed decisions. Whilst this FAQ is by no means exhaustive, its purpose is to give Christians some direction as to how they should approach thinking about the vaccine and conducting themselves both individually and communally during this pandemic. In this FAQ, I ask 3 Christians 7 questions about the vaccine, lockdown and the Church.
*For privacy purposes, I will only refer to the interviews by their first name.*
1. Why did you take the vaccine?
Sarah: I took the vaccine for several reasons. COVID has had a major impact worldwide and as a medical student and disabled woman not only have I gravely been affected by this virus, but I have also witnessed the ramifications that it has had on others and the NHS first-hand. Vaccines have been around for hundreds of years now and there is concrete evidence of how ground-breaking and life-changing they are. Therefore, since the start of this pandemic, I have been praying for a vaccination. Although it isn’t the only way we can make it out of this pandemic, it is a realistic and effective way we can make it out faster and reduce the deaths as much as possible. So once the news of an effective and safe vaccine broke, I couldn’t wait to get it to not only protect myself but also others.
Hannah: Although hesitant at first, I took the vaccine because after some research and pondering I decided it would be the safe thing to do. Also, I believe, for me working for the NHS puts a little more pressure to make a decision quickly.
Josh: I took the vaccine for a few reasons. The first was to get protection from COVID. I also wanted to protect those around me as I would feel guilty if I gave COVID to someone and they had a bad illness as a consequence. Finally, I took it because vaccines seem to be the only way we will get out of the restrictions.
2. How have you coped since the news first broke out that we were in a pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns since
Sarah: Though the news of the pandemic and the constant rise in the death toll was extremely difficult to deal with, initially I coped quite well. I was at university when the pandemic began and got to return to my family home. Because I have quite a big family and I have a great relationship with my siblings, I didn’t struggle with loneliness and was surrounded by love and support which really helped. However, since returning to university and experiencing two more subsequent lockdowns I haven’t been coping as well. I live alone and I am constantly on placement which makes it difficult to stop thinking about COVID. However, something that has helped me from the beginning of this is trusting that God is still and always will be sovereign.
Hannah: I actually did really well in the first two lockdowns, I enjoyed not having to go to events etc. This last one was hard because life seemed to hit me and everyone around me. My typical outlets like travelling and having a physical church community weren’t accessible so it was challenging.
Josh: Back at the start of 2020, I was concerned and anxious about the pandemic and thought the lockdown was necessary. It was a worrying time, and not only was I worried about the pandemic, but all my final year university assessments and lectures were online which impacted my studies. However, I was very fortunate to have very supportive parents and a good home. In the first lockdown, I did feel myself draw closer to God as I was able to spend more time in the word and spending time with Him. However, I did struggle with not being able to see other people. Not being able to go to church in person and not meeting fellow believers was difficult. The importance of fellowship with brothers and sisters is so crucial which I think sometimes I personally took for granted.
3. What will you advise someone who is fearful of taking the vaccine?
Hannah: I would say that if the fear is how quickly the vaccine was made, it is due to the fact that medicine has advanced so much (as we should expect). Also, things that would typically hinder a vaccine from being finalised are money, resources and research participants all of which was readily available for this vaccine. I would also advise that you do your own research, from actual scientists/doctors, not a WhatsApp group or a random pastor. And finally, I say pray about it.
Sarah: I would say they should do as much research as possible and do so with an open mind. Also, beforehand I think it would be wise to pray for God to give them the wisdom to decipher what is true about vaccinations (as there is a lot of false news out there). I strongly believe that if we all looked at the information and the evidence about the vaccinations currently available to us, we would feel more confident about taking it. That being said it is still possible to do all the research in the world and still have fears which is understandable and okay. In this case, I would say that they should reflect on what exact fears they have, pray about them and also seek to find someone, maybe in their church, that they could speak to about these fears.
Josh: The vaccine has been thoroughly tested. [The vaccine] does provide protection against a nasty disease and is the main way we will get back to some normality. Also, those “side effects” everyone is worried about are a lot less severe (if you have any at all), compared to having COVID itself.
4. Did you have any adverse side effects from taking the vaccine?
Josh: I did not have any adverse side effects but had very mild side effects. I felt a bit tired the evening after having the vaccine. I had a mild headache and saw arm swelling the next day but felt fine after that. Nothing dissimilar to what I have had after flu vaccines.
Hannah: I actually did not feel too great after the vaccine for about 30 hours. I felt really heavy and slightly nauseous, I think that the best way to describe it. My arm was also sore, but like I said the symptoms wore off and I felt fine after.
Sarah: Though I know of some people who did get some side effects after taking the vaccine, I didn’t experience anything other than a little bit of arm soreness for a day after both of my doses. That being said, all the side effects I have heard that people experience aren’t anything different to what people get with other vaccinations that have been around for several years. When you think about what the vaccine is doing and how it is working, it makes sense that some people develop side effects.
5. Why do you “trust the science?”
Sarah: I trust the science because I trust in the God that has provided us with it. The studies were conducted so well and by highly skilled and educated individuals. They have dedicated their lives to this profession and I not only trust that they have done a good job, but I am also able to see concrete evidence that they have. I have gone through both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccination papers and the evidence is overwhelmingly brilliant.
Josh: Because over the years of history, we can see the advances in medicine and healthcare. I have personally have seen the positive effects of medical development and had many flu vaccinations in recent years. Finally, they have been transparent with the releasing of data regarding the vaccines and have been through rigorous trials and tests for them to be approved.
Hannah: I wouldn’t say I “trust the science”, but I would say that over and over again I’ve seen God use science to save lives. I see it in my daily work, research and my own personal life. Life is so much better for us because The Lord has enabled science to be of benefit for us from the medication, we take in our day to day to life-saving resources in ITU. It’s an act of grace.
6. What would you say to people who think the vaccine is the “mark of the beast”?
Hannah: I would say that maybe it’s time to study the word again by themselves and see what the Lord says after that.
Josh: In response to this I would ask what is the difference between this vaccine and other vaccines; why aren’t they also the “mark of the best”. We also have to be wary as people throughout history have made false claims about what the mark of the beast is. Additionally, if the mark of the beast is a physical mark then it is “to be marked on the right hand or the forehead” (Revelation 13:16), whereas the vaccine is a jab in the arm. The bigger point of emphasis around this passage is to do with what the mark of the beast symbolises, the control of heart allegiance and behaviour; is it to the beast or to the Lamb which is Jesus. When we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ we will not be let go of. Plus, as believers, we are given discernment from the Spirit and we would have a clear choice between having the mark of the beast or not and following Christ.
Sarah: I would say that the “mark of the beast” and the events surrounding it described in Revelation simply does not align with what is happening today. By receiving the vaccine, I am not proclaiming that I am worshipping the beast, it is simply to protect myself and others. I think we should be very careful about using scripture incorrectly to back up our views.
7. How do you think the Church can support its members and the community?
Josh: We need to protect our members and the community as we are called to love our neighbours. Therefore, taking the vaccine is one way in which we can do that. We should also encourage others to take it and what better way to encourage people by taking it ourselves. As well, we should follow the governments’ guidelines to be good witnesses even when we have had the vaccine. Passages such as Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:11-17 talk about how we should submit to the authorities that God has ordained. So, we should follow their guidance on this issue.
Sarah: Churches are great because they are safe spaces where people can express their stances without fear of judgement. I think Churches need to have more open conversations about the COVID vaccines and the repercussions of taking or not taking them. They can go through the evidence together, discuss fears and pray about them. As well as this because churches are filled with people that have different backgrounds and occupations, they are likely to have a lot of professionals that have advanced insight into vaccinations so they should utilise this. These individuals can answer any questions from both a Christian and scientific/medical perspective and ease any fears people may have.
Hannah: The church (well at least mine) has Drs, scientists, healthcare professionals who can be well versed in these topics, I think utilising their knowledge is key. Also referring members to credible research/ people is also important.
As previously stated, the responses to these questions will not satisfy everybody but I do hope that they will assist in making informed decisions when deciding whether to take the vaccine or how to conduct conversations about fears. No matter our various positions on these issues, as Christians, we must be guided and girded by the truth. May this be both our mission and our delight. Soli Deo Gloria!
To find out more about the COVID-19 Vaccine, and whether or not Christians should take it, listen to the latest episode of The On The Table Podcast!