Pastor M. Alson Ebanks
I write this for two reasons. First, I hope it will encourage my fellow Evangelical Christians to remember, as the psalmist stated, that “Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death” (Psalm 68:20). I will state categorically that every discovery that has saved human lives is from God. Science is not the purview of atheists; science belongs to God, the Creator and sustainer of the universe (and the sustainer of life).
The second reason that I feel compelled to write this is because I am becoming increasingly embarrassed by some of the chatter that I hear in the Evangelical camp –which in essence is just an echo chamber – people choosing to speak and listen to only that which they are already convinced of. If that attitude had prevailed during the days of William Jenner and Louis Pasteur, where would the science of immunology be today?
At times I hear many of my fellow Christians complaining that people in certain camps ignore science in order to promote their sexual ideology, for example. But this is exactly what I see when it comes to the all-too-common attitude among Evangelicals with reference to vaccinations – in particular, the COVID-19 vaccines. I read somewhere recently that in the US the largest group that is resisting COVID-19 vaccination is Evangelicals. From what I have detected, Cayman and much of the Caribbean have caught the ‘American evangelical bug’, symptoms of which include the belief in some conspiracy theory associated with vaccination, distrust of Bill Gates, and the rather naive expectation that there should be no adverse results associated with any worldwide vaccination.
Therefore, on the one hand, local Evangelical and other conservative Christians express their distress that those who wish to promote non-Christian views of human sexuality are ignoring science in preference of their feelings, while on the other hand many of us operate along the same lines when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination.
I assume that by now most of us will have read and heard enough about vaccines to know what they are. As a Christian pastor, I believe that since God is in the business of saving lives, and not taking them, that he chose two committed Christian men to bring about the initial gains in vaccination and immunology that we enjoy today. We know from history that the first human vaccines against viruses were based using weaker or ‘weakened’ (attenuated) viruses to generate immunity.
The smallpox vaccine used cowpox, a poxvirus that was similar enough to smallpox to protect against it but usually didn’t cause serious illness. This breakthrough was at the hands of Edward Jenner, a committed follower of Christ. Rabies was the first virus attenuated in a lab to create a vaccine for humans. The breakthrough for this can be credited to Louis Pasteur, the celebrated French microbiologist and chemist, honoured as ‘the father of bacteriology’. Pasteur was a devout Christian, whose work set the stage for some of the greatest advances in medical science.
I am not a doctor, so I Iook to doctors when I need medical advice and action. But I never forgot the name of William Jenner from my days in elementary school, where we were taught about his discovery – one that has saved multiplied millions of lives. Some things have changed from Jenner’s days. I have read that vaccines are now made using several different processes. The most common method until today has been to make a vaccine that contained either live viruses that have been weakened or altered so as not to cause illness, or inactivated or killed viruses; as well as inactivated toxins for bacterial diseases. A recent development, and one directly related to the COVID-19 vaccine, are vaccines using mere segments of the disease-causing virus.
I recall that immediately after my daughter was born (I was in the birthing room), the nurse took her aside and administered some sort of vaccination. I believe it was against tetanus. And over the years I myself have received multiple vaccinations for all sorts of pathogens. In reality, each year more than 10 million vaccinations are administered to American infants (those 1 year old and under). Thankfully, because of vaccination as a medical tool, smallpox – a disease that caused fatalities in 30%-40% of cases – has now been declared as eradicated. But vaccines are not perfect; even if they were, human bodies and immune systems are not. So, despite its effectiveness, there were adverse events associated with the smallpox vaccine. According to some sources, an average of 28 persons out of every million who received the smallpox vaccine had life-threatening reactions to it, with a mortality rate of one to two people per million.
This reality of adverse events associated with vaccinations in general must be appreciated in the greater reality that smallpox, polio, and many other vaccines are the single greatest lifesaving medical intervention and invention in human history. Thanks be to God for his great mercy. I declare with the psalmist, “Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.”
And I now encourage my Christian brothers and sisters to celebrate the fact that science is of God, as is medicine, as is vaccination, and in faith trust him to preserve your life when you act unselfishly to be vaccinated. And, by the way, I wouldn’t worry about receiving the ‘mark of the Beast’ by way of vaccination any more than I would suggest that someone could receive the ‘mark of Christ’ accidentally.