• Hughson T. Ong

Faith, COVID-19 Vaccines, and Making the Decision

Sometime in the near future, we will need to decide on taking a #COVID-19 vaccine. For some, the decision to be made is a no-brainer. For others, they want to have more clarity on the issue and ensure that health safety measures are in place before making a call. On one hand, ethicists, for instance, have begun to ask questions like “what happens if a person refuses to get vaccinated…that is an ethical concern because what will likely happen to people within that group is more and more opportunities may slowly be shut off to them…Vaccines may [also] give new attention to the notion of ‘immunity passports.’”[1]

On the other hand, for some sceptics like me, I question the rationale, purpose, and motive behind the #vaccination agenda especially in the light of a number of problematic factors that I believe must be considered carefully. First, the COVID-19 statistics dashboard may not necessarily reflect reality. As of December 2, 2020, the WHO dashboard reveals, approximately, 63.4 million infections, 1.5 million deaths, and 492,000 newly-reported cases in the last 24 hours.[2] The internet is flooded with similar figures reported by other government and media outlets. But from where do they get the sources for these numbers? How do we verify the accuracy of these numbers? Does anyone actually know? For all we know, the actual numbers could simply range from, say, 1% to 200% of the reported statistics.

Secondly, it is hard to believe that Europe and North America are leading the charge in terms of the number of confirmed cases—Europe has 19.1 million, and North America has 14.5 million, cases. With a significantly smaller overall population (1.12 billion combined) compared to, for instance, Asia (4.66 billion; 12.6 million cases) and Africa (1.36 billion; 2.2 million cases), why are there more COVID-19 cases in these first-world continents when they apparently have the best health care and social security systems in the world?[3] The sudden spike of cases in the last quarter of 2020 in many western countries like the United States, the U.K., France, and Italy also seems to coincide with talks about the current accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines. The argument that there are more tests done for supporting the higher number of cases is simply unsatisfactory, and is even an invalid assumption when you consider the lower fatality rate in a densely-populated third-world country (110 million) with a tiny land area (300 square kilometers) like the Philippines (1.9% death rate), or, like a super-populated country (1.4 billion) like China (1.4% death rate), for example.

Thirdly, the average global COVID-19 recovery rate of 97% suggests that there are other health and medical remedies to the problem, especially when statistics indicates that infection and fatality rate significantly decreases with every subsequent younger age group.[4] This high recovery rate should prompt us to ask ourselves whether a vaccine shot is the solution to the problem.[5] It would seem that this immunization project is intended for providing us with added social benefits rather than the prevention or a cure from the infection in the long run. After all, what happens if a new strain of the virus or a novel virus appears again, especially when there is what is known as lab-viruses such as the COVID-19 vaccine itself? Does that mean that we would have to redo the entire process again? Vaccination has been part of our healthcare system for quite some time now, and by observing who the real benefactors of a vaccination project are can give us an idea about how our collective future is determined by the decisions of a small group of people in power.

Fourthly, which vaccines should one get? The more powerful and prominent companies can advertise that their vaccine is up to 95% effective. Many people readily trust them because the mainstream media endorse their product. But what about vaccines from other countries that are not endorsed or even mentioned by the western media? Are they less effective and more unsafe? The #mediabias is glaring.[6] When there are so many vaccines that are becoming available in the global market, the scenario seems to indicate that COVID-19 has become a serious health situation because of media hype, government restrictions, newly established norms, and some other unknown reasons (at least for now)—the illness can be treated by multiple types of vaccines and by other natural and medical means.

Lastly, it is said that COVID-19 vaccines, at least the ones produced from the United States, are an #mRNA type of vaccine, which, instead of injecting an inactivated germ to the body, teaches our body cells to make a “spike protein” that creates an immune response to protect us from getting infected by the virus. The vaccine is therefore harmless and safe, as it does not enter the nucleus of the cell which can alter the body’s DNA.[7] Science explains the safety of this foreign substance introduced to our natural body, but it will always be up to our natural body to react positively or negatively to that foreign substance. Our body responds to natural food, and it suffers short- and long-term side effects from the unnatural substances it absorbs. My point is, no one really knows whether a vaccine is harmless or safe until our body reacts to it, and flu shots are a good example. I am not a medical scientist or doctor, so I would only say that every person must study and weigh carefully the pros and cons of every type of vaccine that they intend to take.

So, should we get vaccinated? I think that the answer to this question depends more on the kinds of social benefits and freedom we want to possess in the future rather than on the concern for our overall health risk to the virus. Today, we cannot travel anywhere without getting a COVID-19 test before leaving the country and after arriving at the destination, and if we do not follow the restrictions imposed on us by the authorities. Who knows what is coming up next? It is possible that all this is speculation-driven, but I think we should also listen to our innate intuition to filter through the noise being blasted on us, in order to figure out the big-picture implications of what has suddenly happened to our society in the past ten months.

Life always presents us with choices that we ought to select wisely. Some of these choices are mundane in nature, such as picking an outfit for the day, selecting the color of a fancied car, determining the venue of a dinner date, deciding on cleaning the house on the weekend, etc. Other choices, however, are moral ones, and it matters that you decide on them intelligently and rightly. Moral choices affect your faith and have lasting, and sometimes even permanent, consequences. They are increasingly difficult to make, especially in our day and age, because they usually affect and determine the immediate outcome of our present circumstances. And too often, we tend to choose what is expedient, convenient, and pragmatic over what is right. Some life decisions can appear mundane, and therefore seem easy to make, but they do have underlying implications.

In the midst of this “#pandemic,” which I think should rather be called a “bizarre global crisis,” my suggestion is that we stay calm (Matt. 6:34) and focused on what is beyond and ahead of us (1 John 2:16-17), having a stern resolve to make the right decision. Life may provide us with so many options to choose from, but to think about it more carefully, it actually only offers two choices—whether to choose to do the thing that honors God and the one that will benefit us in the light of eternity, or to choose to do otherwise. If there is any clue and key to the right decision, it would be to choose the odd one that few people would dare to make (Matt. 7:13-14).

[1] https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/what-happens-if-someone-refuses-vaccination-ethicists-urge-clarity-on-covid-19-rollout-1.5208824. [2] https://covid19.who.int/table. [3] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51235105 [4] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm. [5] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-cases/. [6] “Media reports on #Chinese vaccines then to raise questions over safety and efficacy, but media reports on vaccines developed in the West get a totally different treatment. Just take a look! #COVID19 @WSJ.” (@LuiXininBeijing, Twitter, December 5, 2020). [7] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html.