To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (US Department of Defense photo by Lisa Ferdinando via Wikimedia Commons)

That seems to be the question on many minds these days, and it is sad to me that it has led to some heated discussions and division within the Body of Yeshua, both here in Israel and elsewhere.  

Two weeks ago, I was among some of the first people in Israel to get vaccinated with the first of the two vaccine injections. This privilege derived from the fact that I am in the ‘at risk’ group of the over 60s. I have absolutely no qualms about being a ‘guinea pig’ for the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. Yes, there is some risk involved in this new type of vaccine, but life is full of risks. In fact the greatest risk I took was driving into Jerusalem in the rush hour traffic – a risk I often take and accept as just being part of life. All medical procedures and medicines carry the risk of side effects. If you read the small print about the possible side effects of aspirin or paracetamol, you might be surprised how ‘dangerous’ these medicines are. Yet most of us dare to use them from time to time. Why? Because we consider the risks worthwhile. The possible benefits outweigh the possible risks. In this case I took the vaccine because the risk of a dangerous side effect is far lower than the risk of being infected with the virus and becoming seriously ill, or even dying. 

But what about those who are not in a high-risk group? Why should they take the risk? Although I took the vaccine to protect myself, I also considered it a way I could bless others. During the lockdowns and restrictions, and because of my age and ‘high risk’ category, there has been little I could do to help Israel fight this epidemic, but here at last I saw my chance. If I am vaccinated there is far less chance that I could inadvertently pass on the virus to someone else and, if enough of us do it, then the spread of the virus will slow down and even be stopped, allowing us all to return to work and regain a more normal lifestyle. For the same reason, I wear a mask, social distance and obey the lockdown restrictions as far as possible. I see these things as an action of social responsibility and an expression of my love for my fellow Israelis. 

There is also a moral consideration. Both Jewish and Christian world-views value life very highly. If I am not vaccinated and consequently become infected, then I may pass the virus on to someone else who may then fall ill or even die. I would not want that on my conscience. 

One of my friends argued against vaccination by saying that she was not afraid of dying and that God had appointed the time and manner of her death, and that by having a vaccine she might be going against the will of God. The logical end of such an argument would be to refuse all kinds of medical intervention against disease or injury. Most of us are not prepared to go that far! God gave humankind intelligence and the ability to learn how to treat disease and injury. Why would he not want us to use it to save lives? Yeshua demonstrated his concern for life by healing many and even raising some from the dead.  The Bible teaches that God does not want any man to die. He said, “ For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32). He wants all men to have the chance to repent and live. If He didn’t I suspect He would have just wiped us all out long ago. Yes, if we are in Yeshua we need not fear death, but what about our family members, friends, neighbors and workmates who have not yet found salvation? Paul, facing the possibility of death had this to say, 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1: 21-24). 

Perhaps the Lord still has work for us to do here. 

Another friend expressed a fear that the RNA vaccine could alter her DNA. The DNA of our cells is protected by the membrane that surrounds the nucleus. The RNA of the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the host cell. There is therefore no way that the vaccine could reach the DNA and alter it. There is more likelihood the virus itself might do that since coronavirus n-proteins have been found in the nucleolus (a structure within the nucleus) but these are believed to alter the functioning of the apparatus that makes ribosomal RNA, again in no way altering the host cell’s DNA. In any case, host cells that are infected with the virus eventually die, and any alteration of their DNA would not therefore be passed on to daughter cells. 

Other objections to the vaccine are based on the fear of the injection of a tracking device that might be used for controlling the populace in some kind of global government. Although it may be technically possible to inject such a device, I know of no solid evidence of such a thing actually occurring in this case. It is all based on rumor and fear-mongering. In any case, governments already can track us quite well using our cell phones and the surveillance cameras on our streets, should they so desire. A lot of believers are quick to accept these types of conspiracy theories because they appear to support their belief that the end times are upon us and we are about to be forced into a one world government system ruled by the Antichrist. 

I too feel that world events are lining up with Biblical prophecy relating to the end times events, including the revealing of the Antichrist and the coming world government. I have no doubt that Satan is manipulating and leading the world in that direction, setting the stage for the coming Antichrist. I also have no doubt that some conspiracies exist, as they have done throughout all of history, however it is not healthy nor helpful to see conspiracies in every corner and to propagate belief in them without proof or solid evidence. That is tantamount to slander and libel. We who claim to know the Truth should, more even than others, insist on demanding evidence and proof. Of course, some claim to have such proof but often it is based on hearsay and rumor, things that would not stand up in any human court, much less before the Judge of the world. We also need to check the credentials and the agenda of those who are spreading these stories, and pause to think carefully about propagating them before being very sure of their veracity.

We should not be alarmed nor excited by the things that are happening in the world. They are the ‘birth pangs’ prophesied in the Bible.  When His disciples asked Him “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Yeshua answered, saying, 

“Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:4-8).

Such things must happen, but we must keep our heads, and not be easily shaken or alarmed. He has warned us ahead of time. We do not know the time of His coming and, although things are lining up, it may yet be some time off. I can remember people saying the same things 50 years ago when I first came to the LORD, and the history books record that believers expected His imminent coming at every time of major crisis throughout history, for example, during the Black Death of Medieval Times, during the First World War and the Spanish Flu epidemic, and during the Second World War. Of course, we must be closer to His coming than ever before, but even so, I believe we are called to keep on walking with Yeshua soberly and with diligence, and not be easily alarmed or shaken.  We must keep ourselves focused on Yeshua and His commission to disciple the world. Focusing on political conspiracies and the like are a distraction, and Satan is using this means to cause division within the Body, and worse, to undermine our witness and credibility, thus discrediting the LORD.  Our time would be better spent studying the Bible and knowing what it says and taking its advice about how we should walk in these perilous times. 

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns (Matthew 24: 45-46).