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Francis Collins Urges Christians: Get Vaccinated from COVID-19 out of Love of Neighbor

Michael Foust | Crosswalk Headlines Contributor | Updated: Dec 03, 2020
Francis Collins Urges Christians: Get Vaccinated from COVID-19 out of Love of Neighbor

Francis Collins Urges Christians: Get Vaccinated from COVID-19 out of Love of Neighbor

A prominent Christian researcher who serves as the director of the National Institutes of Health encouraged Christians on Thursday to examine the science behind COVID-19 vaccines and to get vaccinated – once vaccines become available – out of a love of neighbor.

Francis Collins, the NIH director since 2009, urged believers not to spread rumors about vaccines and instead to chase the truth about them.

“Here's a great opportunity for Christians to say let's really look at the truth of the situation and evaluate what the evidence demonstrates,” he said during a webcast sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. ERLC President Russell Moore interviewed Collins.

Collins quoted Philippians 4:8.

“I come back to Philippians 4: brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. That would apply really well right here.”

Federal agencies, he noted, are holding a public meeting on Dec. 10 about Pfizer’s vaccine, giving Americans the chance to better understand the science.

Researchers have not cut corners in developing the vaccines, Collins said. If anything, he said, the research and testing has been more rigorous.

“I want to assure you as a scientist, as a physician, as a researcher, who's been in the middle of all of this since January, we have done nothing to compromise in even the smallest way, the safety or the efficacy standards for these vaccines,” he said. “... In the past, usually a trial for a vaccine was maybe 4 or 5,000 people. And these [Covid-19 vaccine trials] are all at least 30,000 people.”

More than 280,000 people, he pointed out, have died from Covid-19.

“Most of us know people now who have lost their lives because it is so rampant,” he said. “And it's particularly rampant right now across the country, in virtually every state, every small town, every rural area – almost no area is spared. And we have the chance for this to end and not to go on. “... If you believe that God gives us the opportunity to act as His agents to try to relieve suffering and death, then it seems like this is a pretty good balance of benefits and risks that you'd want to engage in and probably take advantage of yourself and roll up your sleeve.”

Collins also addressed concerns by the pro-life community about Covid-19 vaccines.

A fetal cell line from a 1970s-era abortion was “part of the preparation of two of the vaccines that aren't yet ready for approval – one by Johnson and Johnson, and one by AstraZeneca.”

But “that cell line is not used in the production of the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine, which are closest to approval.”

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were shown in phase 3 trials to be more than 90 percent effective. Pfizer and Moderna, he said, did use the 1970s fetal cell line in the testing phase of the vaccines.

“But it's not in the production line, which I think makes a lot of difference to people who are very strongly pro-life,” Collins said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a memo Nov. 23 approving the ethical soundness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute lists both as “ethically uncontroversial.”

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development, or production,” the Conference of Catholic Bishops memo said.

Collins also urged Christians not to promote herd immunity as a replacement for vaccines.

“We potentially would eventually get the herd immunity, but there would be millions of us no longer around. The death consequences of that would be appalling,” he said. “… We can do better than that. That's not a Christian answer if we love our neighbors.”

The COVID-19 vaccines, he said, “give you the chance” to raise the body’s antibodies “without having to get sick.”

“There's no risk the vaccine is actually going to cause COVID-19,” Collins said. “... [I]f we don't see wide acceptance, [then] the potential … to drive this vaccine out of our experience could be muted or maybe even fail altogether. We need to figure out how to get most of the country immune.”

Until the vaccines become widely available, it is important for Americans to continue to wear masks, Collins said.

“When you put on that mask, you're protecting yourself a little bit from other people, but mostly you're protecting them from you. You are doing the altruistic loving thing of saying, ‘Just in case I'm that asymptomatic carrier that feels fine, but is actually contagious, I'm going to protect those people from me,’” he said. “That sounds like a Christian action if I've ever heard one.”


What Pro-Lifers Should Know about the Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford COVID-19 Vaccines

Photo courtesy: Pexels/Cottonbro

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Francis Collins Urges Christians: Get Vaccinated from COVID-19 out of Love of Neighbor