Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and be not wise in your own sight.
Common Worship – Daily Prayer
2 Conform no longer to the pattern of this present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Romans 12:2 – Revised English Bible
As some of you will know, I’m now over 70 and as a result, was offered the vaccine fairly early on; several weeks ago. I declined the offer and feel the need to explain why I did this. Those of you who know me will be aware I’m no ‘anti-vaxxer’; I didn’t agonise over vaccinations for any of my children, or for myself when I was constantly travelling to distant places. I was absolutely not afraid of having the jab, and nor would I wish anything that follows to be misconstrued as an appeal to others to follow my example. I want to explain to you what some of the thinking was behind my decision, which was a finely-balanced one. I also need to explain why I do not accept that my decision is a ‘selfish’ one, as some of those who’ve commented publicly about those who’ve declined vaccines have suggested.
Let me start with the last issue first. The irreverendpodcast said last week that they couldn’t understand the logic of those claiming that declining the vaccine was selfish. Neither can I. Surely, if others are going to be vaccinated (and hence, presumably, protected from the worst effects of the virus?) then whether I’m vaccinated or not can have no effect on them at all? If they’re not protected against the virus, then why would they have it in the first place?
Some of the issues that have affected my decision are these:
- Despite my age, so far as I’m aware, I have no health issues. I take no medications, I feel fitter than I have done for years, I eat a very varied and sensible diet, I’m active daily and I’m only marginally beyond my recommended weight.
- Because of my health, I’m not scared of getting COVID, despite our media and our government doing their very best to scare me as much as they can with every single announcement and advert. Approximately 130,000 people have died with COVID (no-one knows how many have died of it). The massive majority of those who’ve died are over 75 with at least two serious health problems. If our population is 67 million, then the risk of dying with it is well below 0.2%. I therefore do not consider that statistically I need the vaccine. Others most certainly do and should be encouraged to have it.
- I’m inherently uncomfortable with the fact that every vaccine producer (so far as I’m aware) has refused to supply unless they’re granted immunity from prosecution for any sickness or death caused by their vaccine. There’s a suggestion that this might be one reason why the EU ended up further back in the queue, as they fought against this demand for longer than we did. And in view of this general indemnity, why would governments not step in and assume this responsibility, if they’re so certain that the vaccine won’t produce long-term effects?
- Currently the virus is in retreat on a global basis (and this is the case, incidentally, regardless of how hard lockdowns have been imposed in different countries). The general view is that numbers infected will continue to fall in the UK, as the weather gets warmer. Why would I want to have a vaccine when it’s least needed? I may consider changing my mind next winter, if the risks increase. Then, if I understand correctly, all those vaccinated early in 2021 will need a further vaccination? By that time, we should be seeing more data about any long-term effects of the vaccine.
- I’m inherently uncomfortable about taking a vaccine that’s being very strongly promoted by a group of government advisors, some of whom are known to have huge investments in some vaccine companies. What happened to conflict-of-interest rules?
- I’m inherently uncomfortable about the failure to report or discuss data in some countries that might (or might not) be indicating potential risks with vaccines? There’s been a more or less total press clampdown on even discussing what the level of risk may be; there’s a complete absence of debate on this point. What has happened to good old-fashioned ‘investigative journalism’?
- I’m inherently uncomfortable about the fact that there’s so much debate about vaccine passports, even ones that may prevent people from visiting shops, cinemas, sporting events etc in the UK. Why would I trust those who seem to be actively considering coercing people, rather than educating and informing them?
- I have to admit that my own level of trust in our authorities (and in our media) has fallen markedly since last March. We’ve been subjected to one algorithmic forecast after another that have been proved to be incorrect to a factor of several hundred percent. The people who are promoting the adoption of the vaccines are the very same people whose advice until now has, at best, been less than totally reliable.
- I’m inherently uncomfortable about those who are putting out the data refusing to engage in debate about its accuracy. How can scientists be so reluctant to look at the challenges put out by those who are as well qualified as they are? Why have some of the best-qualified people (such as those who produced the Great Barrington Declaration) been trashed in the media, rather than engaged in detailed, fact-based scientific debate?
- I’m inherently uncomfortable about the fact that the Social Media giants have tried to close down anyone who produces a logically constructed argument against ‘the norm’, and have absolutely not restricted their cancelling action to the tiny minority who are espousing conspiracy theories. Why have sane, rational, qualified people presenting dissenting facts been treated as if they’re supporters of wild conspiracies?
- I’m inherently uncomfortable about the vaccine being given against the manufacturers’ own instructions and advice. I read the leaflet that was published when the Pfizer vaccine was first released, and it stated that they had not checked compatibility with other drugs and therefore recommended that this vaccine should not be given to those who were taking additional medication. That would surely rule out most of the elderly and all those with additional health conditions?
But this is a theological blog, and my most pertinent and important objections are theological:
- I’m not afraid of death and I worry about the underlying current in the debate, that this is about the long-overdue ‘abolition of death’.
- I’ve spent my entire life trying to support those who have no power and no voice and trying to encourage them, when the world has been united against them. I’m not afraid of being on the wrong side of a debate. I rather feel that it’s almost our duty as Christians to show the world a different way. Some of my closest friends would actually say that this is what defines me as a person, more than anything else. And I’ve often (not always) been found to be right in the longer run.
- As someone who’s trained as a Christian Minister, I believe that we owe our ‘flocks’ a demonstration that we trust in our Lord for our salvation, rather than trusting in something created by mankind, however ‘clever’ it might be.
You see, at the end of the day, I don’t believe in conspiracies, but I do believe in all-too-human cock-ups. And that’s particularly the case when the political, financial and PR rewards of rushing products out so quickly, are so stratospheric as they are with these vaccines.
Heavenly Father, grant us the courage to challenge ‘perceived wisdom’ that tries to shut down debate. Give us the strength to stand up to those who promote trust in themselves, rather than in you. Amen