Modern science holds an increasingly tight grip on all of humanity in the wake of a global crisis. The scientific response to COVID-19 and the development and implementation of its vaccine is now testing the next frontier— the human will, man’s conscience. With the soon-promised vaccine, our dependence on science raises questions on the ethical implications that arise from this proposed solution to end the world’s current crisis. With all of these events unfolding before our eyes, we must ask ourselves what we are willing to surrender in the name of science.
In general physiology college courses, we commonly learn that DNA is the blueprint of all life. We learn of the fine-tuned mechanisms involved in the sustenance of life, best illustrated by the coordination of different instruments in an extensive and complex orchestra. We see how tRNA (transfer ribonucleic acid) and mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) dance together in a joyously choreographed swirl in the ribosomal dance hall to produce proteins, which provide the structure, function, and regulation of the body. For me, the knowledge of this dynamic pirouetting team turned an ordinary physiology class into a deeper appreciation of my Creator who wrote the script, molded the three-dimensional design with His own hands, and then breathed into that inanimate form the breath of life. Even more astounding than this, He gave us liberty of conscience with a mind that could grasp the operations of His creation and a will to choose to cooperate with Him as He continues to sustain this life that He created.
As I monitor the developments occurring in the scientific field today and study the solutions put forward to address COVID-19, I am troubled by the way science is violating its own safeguards as well as the laws of design instilled by God. One of the foundational principles of science is that it is based on that which is verifiable and measurable. One of the places that we see inconsistency is in the testing of the virus, which is utilized as a determinant of eligibility to participate in society, despite the mixed criteria that surround its implementation.
Additionally, modern science is violating the law of God by using processes that He has put together and combining elements from life sources that should not be merged, thus thinking itself wiser than God. This is the case in the DNA and RNA-based vaccines currently being proposed as the only way out of this world-wide dilemma.
The options on the table at this point for vaccines for the novel coronavirus are problematic on many levels. One concern is the actual engineering employed. The Moderna and Pfizer editions of the vaccines are delivered via mRNA housed in a lipid capsule that eases its transfer through the cell membrane. Once in the cell, it employs ribosomes to produce antibodies to cap off the ‘spike proteins’ of the virus in the circulatory system rendering it unable to infect cells. The question arises as to the origin and composition of not only the mRNA and its lipid envelope, but also that of the strands of genetic information and their effect on the cytoplasm in particular. A study done by Pardi et. al. (2018) lists some of the possible side effects that needed to be explored before the vaccine’s efficacy can be established:
Potential safety concerns that are likely to be evaluated in future preclinical and clinical studies include local and systemic inflammation, the biodistribution and persistence of expressed immunogen, stimulation of auto-reactive antibodies and potential toxic effects of any non-native nucleotides and delivery system components.1 Pardi N, Hogan MJ, Porter FW, Weissman D. mRNA vaccines – a new era in vaccinology. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2018;17(4):261-279. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29326426/
With the current ‘warp speed’ development and corners being cut, many of these concerns remain valid. About one month into the epidemic on March 16, 2020 an article in the New Republic read :
On Monday, Moderna Therapeutics, a Massachusetts-based company, began the first human clinical trials of its vaccine in Seattle, Washington—skipping the typical phase of trials wherein a new vaccine or medication is tested on animals first. A successful vaccine could be a lifesaver for many. But bioethicists are also concerned about the compressed timeline…Schreiber, M. (2020, March 16). The Risky Race for a Quick Coronavirus Vaccine. Retrieved December 10, 2020
The AstraZeneca version of the Covid vaccine is different, yet some of the safety concerns are even more troublesome since it is engineered from DNA rather than RNA. DNA is resident in the nucleus whereas RNA is predominantly in the cytoplasm. This vaccine is also housed in a lipid layer, but the source of the DNA is a virus taken from the Rotavirus that infects chimpanzees and used in humans because of their low inflammatory impact. The scientists have stripped the DNA of some of its genetic sequences and spliced in portions of the coronavirus features, which will instruct the nucleus to create the requisite mRNA-bearing instructions to produce the spike protein in the ribosomes of the cytoplasm. The spike protein will serve as sentinels surrounding the cell as with the mRNA. The scientists at AstraZeneca assure us that there are no remnants of this foreign DNA left behind in the nucleus following their task. However, not much evidence supports this and we should not forget that science, despite its incredible advances, still only understands the function of about 5% of the human genome.
Whereas the previous vaccines introduced a minuscule part of a disease to trigger the body’s immune response, they weren’t as invasive as this new technology. These new vaccines advance further than before, with both DNA and RNA vaccines entering into the cell. To put it in simple terms, the RNA vaccine enters the cell through the lipid layer and provides the information for the assembly of the spike protein that will protect the cell. The DNA vaccine enters the nucleus where it is transcribed into mRNA, which exits into the cytoplasm and then performs the same process as the RNA vaccine.
This form of vaccination is unlike any other previous vaccine. Whether mRNA or DNA-based vaccines, we face a dilemma concerning their sourcing and also their impact. If the mRNA and lipid layer is of human extract then who is it from? And with the DNA version, we are told that the vaccines utilize a modified chimpanzee virus. Where in man’s engineering record has the successful manipulation of elements of nature not resulted in a questionable or deadly outcome? Decades after the Manhattan Project, where the atom was tampered with, we are still trying to contain the nuclear byproducts. That was the attempt to move electrons to different orbitals; this is manipulating the core mechanisms of life. I see the effects of the atom manipulation each day as I care for people who came into contact with nuclear fallout, all the time thinking they were protected by “best practices” and now suffering because of it. I cannot with good conscience administer man’s next scientific manipulation to their fragile constitutions.
One of our roles as nurses is as the patient’s advocate. A good nurse will relieve the fears of a patient through education. Most doubts and fears about medical procedures and treatments can be overcome through a solid knowledge base and sound reason to explain the realities. It is impossible to do that with this vaccine. Like the safety measures implemented so far, the realities of the development of the COVID-19 vaccine are shrouded in mystery, hidden behind patents, and thus not open for public investigation. The argument of the ‘greater good’ is not sufficient for us to trust these new medical technologies.
Through financial and social pressure we will be forced to surrender our bodies to a man-made defense system that many of us are not convinced of, and others find unethical. An ultimatum to take the COVID-19 vaccine or lose our job, or worse, has no precedent on this scale in a free society. Are we given the option to follow our conscience?
I chose to be a nurse because of the Divine nudging that suggested that my gifts for benefiting others lay in nursing. My compassionate Creator had a tough time convincing me of this, but that is how He works. “Come let us reason together, says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18). His prompting for me to pursue a career in nursing came through distinct providential circumstances: not only having my school paid for by a gracious aunt but also via a friend urging me in this career notwithstanding my occupational resistance to enter. I had a choice and I made one of my better decisions, career-wise. I have not regretted it for one moment.
Now I am faced with a significant choice again. This time my understanding of science and God’s call to nursing is clashing with a rationalistic science that is at odds with itself, one that threatens the liberty of conscience of healthcare workers, coercing the conscience through financial and social pressure, all for the “greater good”.
For the last twenty-five years, I have been depending on the God that led me into nursing to protect me against occupational hazards like colds and influenza through a robust immune system. I have marveled at these natural built-in defenses and have kept in tune with His laws of health through proper nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, fresh air, rest, and trust in Divine power. These laws preserve the functions He has designated to my DNA and I praise Him for giving me life and health. He has proven faithful in His promise to me. I believe David echoed these thoughts as he said:
” I praise You, for I fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.”Psalms 139:14
The question now is whose laws will I subscribe to? God’s natural law written in my DNA or a DNA-loaded vaccine whose contribution to the delicate symphony of life could be discordant and dishonoring to His original intent?
As nurses and doctors, we are approaching a fork in the road. Will we choose to take the well-beaten path that science bids us down, or with conscience clear take the road less traveled? It is only a matter of days before we must decide. Do we have enough time to break out our notes from nursing school to review our knowledge of the cell? What is an mRNA-based vaccine going to do? What will a DNA-based vaccine do? And once informed on the biological and ethical implications, what will we choose? To trust in man or trust in the Creator of man? I urge you, friends, to place your trust in your Creator and Designer who loves you more than life itself and has promised to provide for you. He will take care of you.
1 Pardi N, Hogan MJ, Porter FW, Weissman D. mRNA vaccines – A New Era in Vaccinology. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2018;17(4):261-279. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/293264263
2 Schreiber, M. (2020, March 16). The Risky Race for a Quick Coronavirus Vaccine. Retrieved December 10, 2020 https://newrepublic.com/article/156932/risky-race-quick-coronavirus-vaccine
3 Coronavirus Update 116: Pfizer COVID 19 Vaccine Explained (Biontech) https://youtu.be/_jwBxZMWrng?t=362
4 Coronavirus Update 118: AstraZeneca DNA COVID 19 Vaccine Explained (vs. Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna) https://youtu.be/GOq8-FR8s1E?t=151