The COVID-19 Vaccines

March 15, 2021 at 5:15 am 3 comments

Credit: Artem Podrez /

It’s been a long year, but there finally seems to be some good news in the battle against COVID 19. New infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are down. Vaccinations against the virus are up. Two weeks ago, vaccination sites across the nation doled out 2.2 million shots in arms. The CDC has also issued fresh guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated, allowing them to gather in small groups without face coverings or social distancing. In even more good news, new research shows that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is effective at neutralizing many of the virus variants. Hope seems to be dawning, even if there’s still more work to do.

But with new hope comes new questions. One of the most concerning questions I have heard recently has to do with how the COVID-19 vaccines are connected to abortion. Abortion is one of the gravest moral issues of our day, so a concern like this deserves and demands our serious consideration.

The question of how the COVID-19 vaccines are connected to abortion arises out of how these shots were developed and tested. They were developed and tested using fetal cell lines, grown in laboratories, that began as fetal tissue from elective abortions, though the cells used in conjunction with these vaccines are now thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, to the best of my knowledge, were not developed from fetal cell lines, but were tested on fetal cell lines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a different story. It did indeed use a fetal cell line in the process of its development. In the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, then, a fetal cell line was an actual source for the vaccine. Without that fetal cell line, there might have, ostensibly, been no Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In the cases of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, their vaccines could have still existed quite apart from any interaction with a fetal cell line.

Do such interactions with these fetal cell lines raise serious ethical questions? Yes. Are the answers to these ethical questions easy or straightforward? Not so much. Some Roman Catholic archdioceses, for instance, are encouraging people to try to avoid taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of how it was developed while other archdioceses are encouraging people to take whatever vaccine is offered them.

As I’ve been considering the complicated questions involved in the development and research of these vaccines, there is a biblical framework that has been helpful to me. When an angry crowd demands Jesus’ death, they do so in a great act of evil. But from Jesus’ unjust death springs forth awesome life, as Easter so wonderfully demonstrates. Likewise, these fetal cell lines spring from abortive acts that tragically and painfully brought about death. But even after these abortions, life has stubbornly held on in fetal cell lines. Though I continue to have weighty ethical reservations about these cell lines, this framework does provide me with a surprising reminder that no matter how final and grim death may seem, life will ultimately prove victorious.

If you are trying to figure out whether you should receive a COVID-19 vaccine, I would encourage you to prayerfully, carefully, and conscientiously consider the ethical concerns and questions, and consult with your physician. The benefits of receiving a vaccine are immense. That researchers, scientists, and medical professionals developed a vaccine for a novel coronavirus inside of nine months can be rightly regarded as astounding. But I also understand the ethical questions are real. I am thankful for these vaccines. I also look forward to the day when, just like we work tirelessly to save lives at risk in a pandemic, every life in every womb will be honored and celebrated.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Thomas Farrand  |  March 15, 2021 at 8:55 am

    Good points, Pastor. Carol and I too have reservations about the vaccine, for the reasons you discussed, but also from a safety perspective. My own doctor admitted that many of her patients had minor or serious after affects from taking the vaccine, and others actually contracted COVID shortly after getting it, although she felt they probably had Covid before getting it. I’ve even been reading about an increasing number of people who have apparently died from the vaccine although the numbers are relatively small. “Marvelous Marvin Hagler” is the latest of these. There seems to possibly be a cover-up of these deaths by the media and health officials which makes me even less desirous of taking it. Then there are the numbers to crunch. The CDC says I have a 99.5 % chance (in my age group) of not dying from Covid if I do nothing while that number is around 95% if I take the vaccine (is that valid?). And, Bill Gates has kind of a questionable past with his vaccine involvement in other countries – apparently with young women becoming sterile after using it. (I admit that some of this is info could be exaggerated or downright false, but we can’t help but be a little hesitant.)
    And yes, J & J and AstraZeneca were both developed from aborted fetal cell lines. I just don’t see how anything good could come out of that, short or long term. I’m still open to the possibility of getting the shot but not just yet.
    By the way, I’ve been meaning to thank you for taking a stand for the most vulnerable among us – unborn children, a few weeks back. It says a lot about you to speak up about this controversial issue, knowing that you might take some flak as a result. But I really admire that you did and I believe God will bless you and Concordia as a result.
    If you haven’t heard, Carol and I are transferring to Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. I just want you to know that it has nothing to do with anything you’ve said or done. We greatly loved your bible studies and grew in our faith as a result. Also your caring and friendly nature was really a blessing. The personal concern you had for my son in law while he was experiencing some health issues was much appreciated by all of us. We were hoping for opportunities to use my God-given musical talents (I was a band and instrumental director and was very involved with the music program at my old church/school) but there doesn’t appear to be any possibility of that just because of the way Concordia has been set up with paid professionals. That’s ok, but we have discovered other churches which have a real need for volunteer musicians like myself who still have something to offer despite being retired. Shepherd was one of those churches, and I’ve been involved with playing bass and acoustic guitar with Sunday worship and Wednesday chapel services with the school children as well as playing my brass instruments. I’ll be officially transferring soon, but I wanted you to know that we plan to stay in touch and occasionally worship at Concordia and regularly listen to your Sunday ABC.
    Again, we thank you for all you’ve done in serving the Lord at Concordia and elsewhere. We’d love to bring you along with us! (Did you know they’re trying to call an associate pastor but have some difficulty finding that person?) God bless you and your entire family.
    Tom and Carol Farrand

  • 2. Jon Trautman  |  March 15, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    Zach you always enlighten me and always inspire, but this was inspiration on steroids. God bless

  • 3. Marlene Mueller  |  March 18, 2021 at 9:26 am

    You have definitely made us think about which vaccine to receive.


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