by Steve Golden —
As with all things related to COVID-19, the new vaccines coming on the market have been a source of debate and consternation for many. The same questions keep coming up: Are they safe? Will they work? Were they rushed? Is there something nefarious going on behind the scenes?
I wanted to take time to provide some answers to these questions from a healthcare perspective, so that you can make an informed decision about whether you’ll take the vaccine when your turn comes. (Full disclosure: I’m not anti-vaccine and generally have no issue being vaccinated, but I am pro-healthcare freedom, meaning I believe every patient has the right to choose what they inject into their bodies.)
Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective?
There are currently two major versions of the COVID vaccine being distributed in the United States: one from Moderna and one from Pfizer/BioNTech. A variety of other versions exist in other countries, but the third major version important here is the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, which the UK recently approved for use.
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: 95% effective, with 2 doses 21 days apart
Moderna vaccine: 94.1% effective, with 2 doses 28 days apart
AstraZeneca vaccine: 70.4% effective, with 2 doses 4 – 12 weeks apart
What’s the difference between each COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech utilize mRNA to provide immunity. These are the first vaccines to use the genetic sequence of a virus to induce immunity instead of modifying a form of the virus itself.
The vaccine from AstraZeneca is a “viral vector vaccine,” meaning it uses a harmless virus that contains DNA from the COVID-19 virus to produce immunity. This method has been used in other vaccines (for instance, the Ebolavirus vaccine is also a viral vector vaccine).
How does the mRNA vaccine method work?
Proteins are vital to the function of our bodies; for instance, proteins in your red blood cells called hemoglobin are what allow the cells to carry oxygen. Those proteins are made using mRNA, which stands for messenger RNA. mRNA is the instruction manual for making a protein.
The nucleus of each of your cells contains DNA, and that DNA is pulled apart to make mRNA, which then travels to the protein production sites outside the nucleus to tell those sites how to make whatever protein is needed at the time. mRNA can only exit the nucleus; it cannot enter the nucleus or change DNA.
The scientists creating the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are using a piece of mRNA for a spike protein from the surface of a COVID virus particle. The spike protein is what allows a COVID virus particle to attach itself to one of your cells and infect it. When you are vaccinated, the mRNA enters certain types of white blood cells, and those cells use the mRNA instructions to build pieces of the COVID spike protein. These white blood cells destroy the mRNA and then show that piece of spike protein to other white blood cells designed to fight off infections. Your immune system will see that protein and know it doesn’t belong, and you’ll start making antibodies against it, so that when the real COVID-19 virus invades, they already know how to deal with it.
The CDC offers a helpful summary of the many other types of vaccination technology here.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe? Are there long-term side effects?
These are difficult questions to answer. The vaccines have not been on the market long enough to track long-term side effects, so those remain unknown.*
Anaphylactic reactions have been reported primarily from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, although one severe allergic reaction has occurred with Moderna’s vaccine. The CDC issued new guidance stating that if you have a history of severe allergic reactions (e.g., you carry an EpiPen for nut allergies), you should talk to your doctor about whether you can get the vaccine. The CDC also states you should not get the COVID-19 vaccines if you are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate.
There were four cases of Bell’s Palsy (a usually temporary weakness or paralysis of facial muscles) with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but the FDA recommended only surveillance of patients after reviewing the cases.
What are the short-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?
Most vaccines cause short-term side effects, and the COVID-19 vaccines are no exception. This article provided a helpful comparison of side effects, and I’ve summarized them below. Side effects generally resolve in a few days and tended to occur after the second dose.
Pfizer/BioNTech: muscle pain, joint pain, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes
Moderna: injection site pain and swelling, chills, fever, fatigue, and headache
AstraZeneca: muscle pain, joint pain, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes
Do the COVID-19 vaccines use aborted fetal cells?
Many Christians understandably have conscience concerns about vaccines that used aborted fetal cells in development. There are four primary fetal cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissues that have been used in the development of vaccines. The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute has a helpful guide to how this works, and I’ve summarized it below.
Vaccine developers generally rely on historical fetal cell lines, not newly aborted babies. Two main fetal cell lines were developed in the 1960s, and two more later on. What happens is that a piece of fetal tissue is placed in a medium that allows the cells to grow and replicate; as they outgrow the dish, they are transferred into more dishes until they are “immortalized.” They are just cells at this point, not tissue.
Some vaccines use fetal cells to grow the virus, which is then injected into the patient (e.g., the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine). Other vaccines use fetal cells to test the vaccine (e.g., Moderna’s COVID vaccine), to make sure it will infect a human cell, but the virus is grown elsewhere (e.g., in animal cells).
The Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines do not use fetal cells in the vaccines themselves. Fetal cells were used in the vaccine testing process, however. The AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines do use fetal cells in the vaccines themselves.
You can see more about the use of fetal cells in these and other COVID-19 vaccines in development here.
Are nanoparticles that will track your movements being injected in the COVID-19 vaccine?
There is no evidence that this is the case. Do we have reason to be suspicious of the government? I think so. We spent most of 2020 finding out that our governments and public health officials have been dishonest with us about COVID-19 and playing politics with our livelihoods and mental health. However, as Christians, we should operate based on evidence and not assumptions as much as possible. At this point, despite any efforts by Bill Gates or others to develop nanotechnology for this purpose, there’s not good evidence that this is what’s happening with the COVID-19 vaccines.
The lipid nanoparticles used in the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are, basically, little balls of fat that carry the mRNA into your white blood cells. Just like the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a harmless virus to carry the COVID-19 DNA, so the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines need a vehicle to get the mRNA into your cells. Our bodies use lipid carriers regularly to protect whatever is being transported, so it’s an obvious choice for protecting the mRNA.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine change your DNA?
As I wrote above, mRNA cannot enter the nucleus of your cells. The nucleus is highly regulated because God designed your body to protect your DNA. That doesn’t mean DNA-altering technologies don’t exist—they do (e.g., the controversial CRISPR technology). But mRNA is used only at protein-making sites outside the nucleus and then is destroyed by the cell.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine the mark of the beast predicted in Revelation 13?
No. In order to have the mark, we need a beast—and while there are plenty of good candidates, the Antichrist has not yet been revealed. (And if you’re like me, you believe the Church will have been taken away in the Rapture before the Antichrist comes on the scene.) The global push for the COVID-19 vaccine to be required in order to buy, sell, or travel certainly looks like the mark, and all the building blocks for a future mark are there. But taking this vaccine, based on the situation today, is not the equivalent of taking the mark.
Is quantum dot technology being used to track COVID-19 vaccination in the US?
Quantum dots, which have been studied for some time, are small nanoparticles that are microflorescent and have multiple uses:
- They have potential as a way of fighting viruses (one potential is using the nanoparticles to suppress certain proteins on a virus, preventing it from infecting our cells);
- They can enter human cells and assess how well antibodies or other therapeutics prevent a virus from infecting our cells;
- Their florescence can be used to “mark” a person who has received a vaccine or series of vaccines (tests “showed that the quantum dot patterns could be detected by smartphone cameras after five years of simulated sun exposure”);
- They can be used to deliver a vaccine through a microneedle patch while simultaneously marking a person as vaccinated (tests in rats showed the same level of vaccine effectiveness as a traditional injection).
Should Christians be concerned about quantum dot technology? In its current form, this technology is not harmful to our bodies. Quantum dot technology certainly provides more building blocks for the mark of the beast, but at this point there is no evidence it is being used in the current COVID-19 vaccines.
Should we be concerned about how quickly these vaccines were developed?
Despite the media’s and public health officials’ assurances that the quality of these vaccines was not hurt by the speeding up of the development process, people from all political persuasions are wary. We can look back at the “swine flu fiasco” of 1976, when the CDC started mass vaccination for a pandemic that never arrived in the US, and be assured that our concerns are justified:
By December 1976, vaccinations came to an abrupt halt. About 45 million Americans had received the “swine flu” vaccine against an H1N1 influenza strain known to circulate in pigs. About 450 of them developed a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, but its connection to the vaccine is still debated.Michele Cohen Marill, “What Happened Other Times a Vaccine Was Rushed?,” WebMD,
Today, we ask every patient if they have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome before we give them a flu shot.
The vaccine development process normally takes years, but the COVID-19 vaccines were developed via Operation Warp Speed in a matter of months. Part of the speed has to do with the companies performing multiple steps in the process in parallel rather than waiting until one phase was complete before moving on to the next. We’d all agree that government bureaucracy tends to slow development down.
At the same time, the release of the vaccines under Emergency Use Authorization does not mean that the vaccines are fully FDA approved or completely safe. It means they are safe enough to use in a state of emergency, and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly qualifies.
Phase 4 of clinical trials for any drug or vaccine is “optional studies that drug companies may conduct after a vaccine is released.” The CDC’s plan (as of a few weeks ago when I attended a CDC COVID-19 vaccine meeting) is to remain in close contact with vaccine recipients at set intervals, to monitor side effects and adverse reactions. We are the Phase 4 clinical trial, if we choose to take the vaccine at this point.
Should you get a COVID-19 vaccine?
I can’t make the decision for anyone about whether or not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Personally, I’m on the fence about receiving it now, but if it appears safe in a few months, I will likely get the vaccine (and because I’m a healthcare worker, it probably won’t be optional at that point). Not everyone will feel the same way, but we should make fully informed decisions.
Disagreements about masks, social distancing, and attendance at gatherings has already damaged relationships within the Church with accusations of either fearfulness or of not loving one’s neighbor. My encouragement to all of us, especially Christians, is not to let the COVID vaccines join these as yet another source of strife among believers.
*When I encounter parents who are particularly apprehensive about vaccine reactions, I generally suggest a slowed vaccine schedule for their children, so they can better monitor for reactions. In cases where an apprehensive adult only needs a couple vaccines, I suggest getting one per appointment so that reactions can be traced to the correct vaccine culprit.