3 Bioethical Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccines

After considering new mRNA technology, Christian experts are in favor.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the US expands from health care staff to elderly citizens and essential workers, Americans are weighing whether to get the shot when given the chance.

Though the coronavirus vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer represent a new type of vaccine—using mRNA rather than a weakened form of the virus to trigger the immune response—some of the basic ethical questions around them stem from existing concerns over vaccination.

Vaccine hesitancy ranked among the World Health Organization’s top 10 threats to global health in 2019, before the pandemic began. Some American Christians have declined vaccines due to ethical and religious concerns over their formulation, and some share concerns with the vaccine-hesitant minority over safety and side effects.

The COVID-19 vaccine, so far, has been shown to be 94–95 percent effective, with side effects that go away within a few days. Still, 50 percent of white evangelicals and 59 percent of black Protestants say they won’t get it, while the majority of the US population overall (60%) says they will, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey.

Despite the ambivalence, Christians have historically advocated for vaccination as an expression of love for neighbors, saying the benefits far outweigh the chance of harm. In the 1700s, Puritan preacher Cotton Mather urged his congregation to be inoculated from smallpox before the first vaccination had even been successfully developed. Today, leading Christian medical professionals and ethicists promote vaccines.

With today’s generation of American faithful once again considering whether a vaccine is safe and ethical, many evangelical organizations and experts have already weighed in. …

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