Can Christians Ethically Refuse a Coronavirus Immunization?

Christians have refused certain immunizations or treatments for reasons of conscience. Some Christians do not feel comfortable taking the varicella or rubella vaccines, for example, because they use fetal stem cells in their production processes.

This is an understandable position to take. Up to this point I have generally accepted that this can truly be a matter of conscience about which we must not harshly judge each other. The coronavirus presents a new paradigm, however. This is a genuine threat, much like polio and smallpox used to be. Whereas polio and smallpox are now nearly eradicated, the coronavirus is not. (I am setting aside concerns about a possible resurgence of polio and smallpox if people stop taking these vaccines.) Therefore, I think that we as Christians need seriously to examine this issue in advance of the point at which we have to decide whether to take coronavirus vaccines or treatments.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (" Vaccine Ingredients – Fetal Tissues", reviewed by Paul A. Offit, MD on February 27, 2020, retrieved March 21, 2020 from https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients/fetal-tissues) states that the varicella and rubella vaccines, among others, come from viruses grown in fetal stem cells that trace their lineage to two abortions performed in the early 1960s. If this holds true for any new coronavirus vaccine, does refusing to take it amount to cutting off our noses to spite our faces? If on the other hand new fetal stem cells not from these lineages are used, does this still change the picture?

If any Christian refuses to take a coronavirus immunization for any reason, should he or she then meekly accept whatever quarantine or punishment the law requires without taking it to court? How can all Christians support our freedom of conscience as delineated by St. Paul in Romans 14 while also meeting our obligations to our families and neighbors to do our best to protect from this pandemic?

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@blbossard Great question :slight_smile: Here are a few thoughts to keep the conversation rolling.

  • this may be an instance of the genetic fallacy - the source of the vaccine does not necessarily make the vaccine itself bad.
  • if there is no causal connection between refusing to take the vaccine and a reduction in stem cell research, then is it rationale to refuse? For example, it makes sense that abolitionists refused to use ingredients that were produced via slavery because market demand was driving the production and a strong drop in sales would send a message to those who were abusing their power that people were not willing to use products that were the result of injustice. However, is the same true of a vaccine?
  • if a person does refuse a vaccine for reasons of conscience, then they would, by the principle of love of neighbor, be required to do whatever is necessary to protect others from infection if they fell ill, yes?
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