God and vaccines

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

I never thought that the Covid-19 vaccination will be hotly contested in debates and conversations in my country, the Philippines. Two opposing sides have been formed – those for and those against. Those who are against are more varied in their views as to why they oppose it. Those with more radical viewpoints believed that governments are wanting to track you through the shot, others insist on their genuine health concerns or personal beliefs that bar them from taking the vaccine. 

I recently encountered such a conversation in an online meeting with my relatives on my father’s side. We were in a discussion, planning for our clan reunion online when suddenly, a lawyer relative switched to the Covid 19 vaccination topic. The meeting became intense, and everybody seemed to have a different opinion.  I kept silent and never wanted to join the squabble when a medical doctor in the family asked me: Father, do you think God supports this vaccination program being done today? You know, I heard vaccine for children will be ready soon, she added. I assured her and the others that as Christians, our position on vaccinations for ourselves (and for our children) should be based on what gives glory to God. This means focusing on empirical evidence, and not on anti-science propaganda, anecdotes, or celebrities and those exercising their freedom in a very distorted way. After a year of uncertainty, the vaccine has arrived and has clear benefits that should make everyone strongly consider getting the shot. By choosing to be vaccinated, I emphasized to my relatives that they can protect not only themselves and their families but their communities as well.

The lawyer, who started the discussion argued: But Father we cannot find any statement in the Bible that God allows vaccinations. Now, again the conversation became more intense, and I know I came face to face with a man of the law, highly influenced by some fundamentalists and radical groups advocating the freedom from “vaccination coercion”. 

Using my cell phone and scrambling to find the Bible, while recalling some fragments of my Biblical exegesis studies. The Holy Spirit was generous enough to lead me to the first letter of St Paul the Corinthians 6:19-20 that reads: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” With enough patience, I explained to the lawyer in our family that with this inspiring letter of St Paul, God wants us to live healthy lives so that He can use our bodies to help spread His Word. The vaccine we have now is God’s Divine Mercy to protect us from Covid 19. The surprisingly short period of time in producing the vaccine is showing us that God has guided medical professionals in the right direction. With this development, we may also claim that God is the Great Physician. He can work through doctors to change the lives of people for the better. Here is why the Lord supports vaccination. 

A cousin and a religion teacher was on my side when she said: The Catholic Church has historically been at the forefront of promoting vaccinations and sees them as God’s gift to modern medicine. Catholics share with other Christian churches that Christians have the moral freedom to receive vaccines, though it also respects those other Christians who come to a different conclusion after consideration and prayer.

To sum up, before we ended our online meeting, I confidently told my relatives that it can be scary to oppose a vaccination program if they do not have all the facts. God wants all people to live healthy lives. That means we have to take the time to learn about vaccinations and how they can promote our health. They are safe and effective gifts from God Himself.