Letter from Australia 98 – Jesus is not my Vaccine and The Government is not my Saviour
Dear brothers and sisters,
I’ve finally done it. I went this morning to my local GP and got the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Annabel has been fully vaccinated for a few weeks so why so late for me? Firstly Annabel is much more valuable than me – she is a key health worker (and church worker) and the Australian government need her more. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!
But there is also the fact that the situation here in Australia with vaccines has been confused. There was a considerable going to and fro from medical ‘experts’ and political health bureaucrats over the safety of AZ in particular. Including the shameful and irresponsible behaviour of the Queensland Premier and her health officer who actually implied that young people could be more likely to die from the AZ vaccine rather than Covid. It was a well-publicised statement which has done a great deal of harm. As a result those of us under 60 were told to get Pfizer. That advice has changed somewhat.
There were Christians who were advising that you are sinful and selfish if you don’t get the vaccine, and others suggesting that you are sinful and stupid if you do. Of course the extremes in the Christian world, just reflect the extremes in society. There is a hysteria surrounding covid (which I suspect will be mild compared with the ‘it’s the end of the world’ hysteria coming because of climate change), which makes people make extreme statements. For example yesterday I was reported to Twitter by a woman who complained that because I dared to question the efficacy of masks I was encouraging people to commit suicide! There are some crazy right wing conspiracy theorists, but my experience is that there are just as many left wing/progressive crazies who see conspiracies everywhere. A plague on both your houses!
I like to think about things for myself and try to assess and understand what is involved. Being emotionally bullied into taking or refusing something doesn’t work. Persuasion, reason and prayer are big factors. I made my decision about the vaccine the same way I made my decision about masks and lockdowns. I’m not absolute about any of them because my knowledge is limited and changes but in general I am for vaccines, mixed about masks and opposed to lockdowns. Which means I get shot at from all sides!
Reasons Against Taking the Vaccine.
There are good reasons for not taking the vaccine. It is still relatively new and we have yet to see the data for the longer term effects. There are considerable doubts about its efficacy – the data is still coming in. Even if you go to the highest figures it is suggested that they are about 90% effective in preventing you getting covid, and 60% effective in you passing it on. In addition to this we should be cautious about putting strange things into our bodies. There have been several people who have died from taking vaccines – in Australia at the last count I think it was seven from the AZ. If you are young, in an area with little Covid, it may be that you decide not to take the vaccine and I wouldn’t judge you for that. It certainly is wise to get information and find out what you can. And you are right not to just trust Facebook, who have set themselves up as the Vaccine guardians (this post will undoubtedly be flagged when it appears there), or the politicians. Question, find out, think for yourself. Given that I think people should have the freedom to choose for themselves I am utterly opposed to the idea of vaccine passports and especially to the notion that churches would not permit non-vaccinated people to attend. I doubt I could be part of a church which refused entrance to people.
One reason for refusal that is not valid is the one we saw on one of the protest signs at the anti-lockdown rally in Sydney – ‘Jesus blood is my vaccine’. At best that is misguided, poor theology – at worst it is crass blasphemy. Being a Christian does not mean that you will not get sick if you just have enough faith, nor does it mean that you should never use medicine. Paul told Timothy that because of his frequent illnesses he should take a little wine for his stomach’s sake (1 Timothy 5:23). Didn’t Paul know about the blood of Jesus? What kind of Apostle was he?! Why does he advocate taking medicine?
Why did I take the vaccine?
It was with some degree of reluctance. I have had serious blood clots and did have an element of concern. I am not anti-vax and was prepared to wait for Pfizer. But there were several things that swayed me towards phoning up the doctor yesterday – and I got an appointment today. The Australian Health Service is quick and efficient!
What persuaded me to take Astra-Zeneca – apart from my covid nurse doctor and my caring wife! – was reading and listening to my GP – who said that with Pfizer I had a 1 in 100,000 of getting seriously ill, and with AZ it was 2 in 100,000. Hardly a big increase in the odds! Also the fact that covid is now in the community in Sydney and, despite the absurd ‘zero covid’ policy of much of Australia, it is not going to go away. With my particular history from 10 years ago – an overweight man in his 50’s with co-morbidities would be a prime candidate for serious illness from covid (apparently the only thing that would make it even worse were if I were black – which is not a racist statement – just an observable statement about how covid affects different ethnic groups). Also the data is very strong that the vaccines prevent you getting seriously ill if you get covid. So if we were playing the odds – it makes sense to get the vaccine.
In addition to that I don’t want to pass covid on to anyone else; I would like to see the Ashes in January in Sydney (they are planning to ban anyone who is not vaccinated); and even more importantly I am desperate to get home to see family and friends. That is assuming that Australian politicians eventually wake up to the reality that we can’t cut ourselves off from the rest of the world forever.
Another factor is that I am a lot less certain about Pfizer – not because it is an American vaccine – but because it is a different and new type of RNA vaccine – whereas AZ is more traditional medicine. And this may be a small point, but for me it is an important one. AZ charge $4 per vaccine, Pfizer have just put their prices up to $22.
AZ are basically giving their vaccine at cost price. Pfizer are profiteering. They say they are putting the price up because of demand – in other words they can make more money – so they will. Given this is a war against covid they are the equivalent of war profiteers.
But the other factor is this. I don’t play the odds. Which doesn’t mean that my trust is in the government. My life is not in their hands and whilst I am thankful for our political leaders I don’t trust Gladys, Dr Chant, ScoMo, Boris, Biden or Nicola to preserve my life. It seems that many of our leaders are using Covid as an excuse to bargain away our freedom – the bargain being that they will keep us safe, protect us and give us life. No thanks. I want a better live than just being a citizen in their narrow and limited kingdom. My faith is placed in a much higher power. I trust Jesus. Jesus is not my vaccine. But he gives us vaccines. And it’s because I trust him that I take the vaccine. It has a risk, but so does every time I get on a plane (apparently I have a one in 6,000 chance of getting a blood clot on a flight), drive in a car, or go for a swim. The person who says that Jesus is their vaccine, doesn’t say that Jesus is their chef and then sits waiting at a table for him to send in the ravens to feed them! It is BECAUSE I trust God and his sovereignty that I thank him for medicine, science and all these marvellous gifts he has given us. How ungrateful do I have to be not to use them?
That doesn’t mean I have a guarantee against adverse effects. It does mean that I believe that all the days ordained for me before one of them came to be (Ps 139:16). I have to take care of my life – not seek to shorten or lengthen it. It may be that I could have an adverse reaction (so far, so good!)….it may be that I have a heart attack, cancer, car accident or any one of a thousand ways that people die. But this I know – my times are in His hands, and I trust Him. So I took the gift offered and pray that I will be able to stay on this earth for a while to live for Him and serve family, church, community, country and His world.
See you next week,
Yours in Christ
PS. A friend just sent me this!