Coronavirus And The Church

Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Resources

We honor the concerns and questions people have about the COVID-19 vaccine, and are committed to providing you with credible resources to inform your decisions. Below you will find three interviews with public health professionals on navigating the questions and tensions around the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Gregory Poland | May 12, 2021

Ed interviews Dr. Gregory Poland, Director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group.Dr. Gregory Poland is a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, director of the Mayo Vaccine Research group, and editor in chief of Vaccine.

Dr. Jay Butler | March 26, 2021

Ed interviews Dr. Jay Butler, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Jay C. Butler, MD is the Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases. In this capacity, he provides leadership to the efforts of CDC’s three infectious disease national centers and helps to advance the agency’s cross-cutting infectious disease priorities. He is board certified in medicine, pediatrics and infectious diseases, and has served in public health positions at federal, state, and tribal government, including completing more than 22 years in the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service, from which he retired at the level of Captain (Medical Director) in 2012.

Dr. Francis Collins | January 12, 2021

Ed interviews Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes for Health. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. has served as Director of the National Institutes of Health since August 17, 2009, appointed by two presidents. In this role, Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research.

Real Questions about the Vaccine: The CDC Responds

Below you will find the Center for Disease Control’s responses to what we have found to be the most common recurring questions as churches and church leaders learn to engage with one another on the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine.

1. The mRNA vaccine research has been crunched into a year of development and not adequately tested.

Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. Interest has grown in these vaccines because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials. This means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.

mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine.

Future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases.

Beyond vaccines, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mRNA.html?s_cid=10506:mrna%20vaccine:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21

2. The COVID-19 vaccine (injecting a sequence of mRNA into a human being) does not fall under the historical definition of a CDC vaccine. What we have with the COVID vaccine is an experimental biological gene therapy of which the long-term health data is simply not there. 

[See #1 and also]: mRNA vaccines are safe and effective. mRNA vaccines have been held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States. The only COVID-19 vaccines the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will make available for use in the United States (by approval or emergency use authorization) are those that meet these standards. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mRNA.html?s_cid=10506:mrna%20vaccine:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21

  3. If someone has a laboratory confirmed positive case (that presented with symptoms) and have recovered, why would you need the vaccine? You have natural immunity.

We highly recommend those who have been previously infected with COVID-19 to be vaccinated. There’s simply not enough data to know how long one carries the COVID-19 antibodies after having been infected. Although it is rare, there have been cases where people have been re-infected. Learn more about why getting vaccinated is a safer way to build protection than getting infected. 

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Experts are still learning more about how long vaccines protect against COVID-19 in real-world conditions. CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

4. How many people have died from adverse reactions to the vaccines? (The widely reported number is 4,000).

There is no evidence that the vaccine has contributed to patient deaths, based on a review of available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records. Over 230 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through April 26, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 3,848 reports of death (0.0017%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. However, there is no evidence these are linked to the vaccines. CDC and FDA physicians review each case report of death as soon as notified and CDC requests medical records to further assess reports. CDC and FDA will continue to investigate reports of adverse events, including deaths, reported to VAERS.

To date, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has not detected patterns in cause of death that would indicate a safety problem with COVID-19 vaccines.

  • FDA requires vaccination providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS.
  • Reports of death to VAERS following vaccination do not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the death.
  • CDC follows up on any report of death to request additional information and learn more about what occurred and to determine whether the death was a result of the vaccine or unrelated.
  • CDC, FDA, and other federal partners will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html

5. How do you weigh the unknown risks of the vaccines versus the known risks of getting COVID? 

Because some people with COVID-19 can have very mild symptoms, some may see natural infection as preferable to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Some people may be concerned that getting a COVID-19 vaccine could make them sicker if they do get COVID-19.

  • COVID-19 can cause severe illness or death, and scientists can’t reliably predict who will have mild or severe illness. You can also spread COVID-19 to others, including family. And, some people continue to have long-term health issues after COVID-19 infection known as “long COVID.”
  • Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection, known as immunity. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. However, experts don’t know for sure how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity.
  • Millions of Americans have already been vaccinated and these vaccines are undergoing the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. The same vaccines are used globally and the World Health Organization reports that hundreds of millions of vaccinations have been administered.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/hcp/answering-questions.html

6. Many evangelicals, myself included, have a high concern for unborn children. Some evangelicals are not comfortable with the cells or cell lines of aborted fetus’ being used in the testing or the production phases. What can you tell us about the use of aborted fetus’ in the development of each vaccine?

Health experts have spoken directly to evangelical leaders on the use of human tissue in vaccine development: 

In addition, faith leaders have provided perspective and statements related to the moral complexity of the COVID-19 vaccines: 

7. Some data online is saying COVID-19 has a 99+% survival rate. Is this true? Why vaccinate against such a small chance?

COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Infected people have had a wide range of symptoms reported – from mild symptoms to severe illness.

Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

People at increased risk, and those who live or visit with them, need to take precautions to protect themselves from getting COVID-19.

We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes. People who are infected but do not show symptoms can also spread the virus to others- and they in turn could become seriously ill. 

Source:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html

It’s the vaccines that have a high percent of effectiveness: Clinical trials showed that the vaccines are 94-95 percent effective, meaning they prevent 94-95 of every 100 vaccinated individuals from getting COVID-19. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/effectiveness.html

8. Previous vaccines have been recalled over the years. What makes these vaccines safer?
 9. Why get vaccinated if I still need to wear a mask?  So, why is it worth getting the vaccine?

Good news is that you don’t!  Updated guidance from the CDC– based on the current level of community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines – people who are fully vaccinated and have waited the appropriate time following the vaccine can:  

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing;
  • Visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing;
  • Participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues;
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel;
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States;
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings;
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic; and
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if asymptomatic and feasible.

All good reasons to get vaccinated.  Read more here.  

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

10. Recent news about the J&J vaccines raised concerns that the safety of the vaccines was oversold. What gives you confidence now?

According to the FDA and CDC, safety is the top priority. The pause on the J & J vaccine was an example of the extensive safety monitoring system working as it was designed to work—identifying even these small number of cases.  The system was able to identify exceptionally rare events – out of millions of doses of the Janssen COVID-19 administered – and the pause was made in order to examine them more carefully. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/fda-cdc-lift-vaccine-use.html

The pause on the J & J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was lifted upon review all available data by the FDA and CDC and in consultation with medical experts, and based on recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices–a group of medical and public health experts that develops recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States.

·         Reports of adverse events following the use of J&J/Janssen vaccine suggest an increased risk of a rare adverse event called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). Nearly all reports of this serious condition, which involves blood clots with low platelets, have been in adult women younger than 50 years old.

·         A review of all available data at this time shows that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.

·         However, women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen.

·         CDC and FDA will continue to monitor the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/fda-cdc-lift-vaccine-use.html

11. Since the virus is rapidly mutating with new variants, will the vaccines still be effective in a few months?

Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally and within the United States. In collaboration with a SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG), CDC established 3 classifications for the SARS-CoV-2 variants being monitored: Variant of Interest (VOI), Variant of Concern (VOC), and Variant of High Consequence (VOHC).

There are currently five Variants of Concern in the United States.  These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

Learn more about SARS-CoV-2 Variant Classifications and Definitions.

So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.

In the meantime, rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.

Source:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/variant.html

12. The issue of the vaccines has become so politicized. What gives us confidence that the CDC is objectively evaluating the science free from bias

The recommendation to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States is made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts that develops recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States.

ACIP consists of 15 experts who are voting members and are responsible for making vaccine recommendations. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) selects these members after an application and nomination process. Fourteen of these members have expertise in vaccinology, immunology, pediatrics, internal medicine, nursing, family medicine, virology, public health, infectious diseases, or preventive medicine. One member is a consumer representative who provides perspectives on the social and community aspects of vaccination.

In addition to the voting members, there are 30 non-voting representatives from professional organizations that are highly regarded in the health field, including members from: 

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American College of Nurse Midwives
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American College of Physicians

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. The vaccines met FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization (EUA). Learn more about EUAs in this video

Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and these vaccines will undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/committee/role-vaccine-recommendations.html