Children to receive Covid-19 vaccinations? – A Theological Response

I have already written a longer post on the ethics of these vaccines in general, in which, towards the end, I touched on giving these products to children. I did not make that section as explicitly theological as I could have done. Here I will give some theological reflections and keep the post nice and short. I hope that the reader will find this easy to understand and convincing, and I hope that you will pass this blog post around, as I believe that this issue is extremely serious and pressing. The fact that there has been so little communication from churches and from Christian leaders is not good to say the least.

Children are at greater risk from the vaccines than from Covid-19

As noted in my previous post, a report issued by Imperial College London, shows the relevant age-specific infection fatality rates to be as follows: 0-4 years – 0.00% 5-9 years – 0.01% 10-14 years – 0.01% 15-19 years – 0.02% According to another report from Imperial College, just 6 children have died from Covid-19 aged 10–14 years old, and 20 aged 15–19 in England and Wales since the pandemic began. Tersely put, the risk to children from Covid-19 is infinitesimally small. In comparison, we have good reason to believe that the risk posed by the Covid-19 vaccines is much higher. Since children are not at risk from Covid-19, there is also the additional point that these vaccines can have no benefit for them in any case, even if the vaccines were harmless. What are the problems? The first problem is that the three vaccines in question – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – were not trialled on children and so we cannot possibly know whether they are effective or safe. This aspect is covered clearly and succinctly by Sebastian Rushworth, and he concludes his chapter on the vaccine trials in the following way:
None of these studies can tell us whether the vaccines are safe and effective for children. It would be unethical to start vaccinating children without first having made sure that the vaccines are safe for them, especially considering that the risk to children from Covid is infinitesimal. SEBASTIAN RUSHWORTH, COVID: WHY MOST OF WHAT YOU KNOW IS WRONG, PP. 130-131
The second problem is the very high amount of adverse events and fatalities that are associated with these vaccines. The latest report from June 17th shows us that there have been 949,287 events and 1,332 fatalities associated with them as collated from the Yellow Card reporting system. (A helpful summary of the relevant information around vaccine safety is published each week on the Lockdown Sceptics website.) We do not know the rate of underreporting which could be as high as 90% or even higher. So we could be looking at numbers ten times greater than even those quoted above. Whatever the rate of underreporting, this is an extremely high amount of adverse events and deaths for a vaccination programme. If the vaccines are rolled out to children, these adverse events and side-effects will translate in some way into the child population of our country. The third problem is that there is simply no long-term safety data for the vaccines. They were trialled over a period of months. The Pfizer vaccine, which as I understand it is the one that has been authorised for use in children by the MHRA, had a follow-up period of two months after the second shot (quoted in Rushworth, p. 125). And it is worth noting again, that there was no follow-up with children because the vaccine wasn’t trialled on children. There is no way of telling what long-term effects the vaccines will have on anybody who takes them. This is an unknown level of risk. Given these three problems (which basically amount to saying that there is no reassuring data concerning side-effects/deaths in children and plenty of data that is very worrying) and the fact that children are not at risk from Covid-19, we can conclude that children will not benefit from taking these vaccines and may suffer adverse events or even death from doing so.(1)

Children should not be used to protect adults

The main justification that has been given for the giving of these vaccines to children is to lower the rate of transmission and therefore reduce prevalence in the population. The vaccines were not trialled to show a reduction in transmission and, although there may be some evidence of a reduction in household transmission among asymptomatic people, there is still a scientific question over whether or not the vaccines really do reduce transmission in any significant way.(2) In other words, there may be no benefit at all for anyone in children taking the vaccines. But even if there were a benefit to adults, this would not help the situation. Indeed, the immoral aspect of this suggestion is the utilitarian notion that children should be used in order to lower the prevalence of the virus within the population at large and thus to protect people who are significantly older. The reader will likely be aware that the average age of death from Covid-19 is between 80-82 years old (which, incidentally, is almost identical to the average age of death in the UK from all causes). This vaccine is not for children, therefore, but for people who are, generally-speaking, much closer to the end of their lives. It offers no benefit to children and has potentially life-ending or life-altering consequences for them. This suggestion is profoundly at odds with a Christian anthropology that sees every single human being as created in the image of God and as infinitely valuable and precious in his sight. It is an offence to God to use one another as a means to an end, and it seems to me an especially offensive action to use children in order to protect adults in the way that is being suggested. We should remember the actions of Christ himself, who, when his disciples rebuked him for receiving little children, said to them, ‘“Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God”…And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them’ (Mark 10:14(b),16). We should also remember his solemn warning:
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
  • MATTHEW 18:5-6
As adults, we are given a special role to nurture and protect children and to make absolutely certain to safeguard their well-being at the cost of our own. In the suggestion that we give the Covid-19 vaccines to children, this dynamic is precisely reversed: it would be done for the well-being and protection of adults at the cost of the well-being of children. If the 11,000,000 children of our nation are given the Covid-19 vaccines, it is highly likely that some of them at least will die. Let me put that another way: it is highly likely that the vaccine will kill some of them. Pfizer currently estimates that 1 in 62,121 doses of their vaccine will cause a fatality. If that vaccine were given to our children, therefore, we would be looking at around 177 child deaths. These children would not die were they not given this vaccine. This would constitute the sacrificial offering of the lives of children in order that adults be protected from a virus. On the basis of human reason and Holy Scripture, I am confident that, in the sight of God, this would be profoundly wrong and a terrible sin. Let us hope and pray that it doesn’t happen in our nation. (1) If I’m honest, I’m more worried about this issue than I have indicated in the main text. I am trying to keep it short and to the point, but I think the situation is much worse than already indicated. If you are interested to know more details, can I urge you to read Dr Tess Lawrie’s excellent analysis of this situation in the form of an open letter to the MHRA. Dr Lawrie is director of the Evidence-based Medicine Consultancy Ltd, and she concludes her report as follows: “The MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans”. (2) A paper was produced in April 2021 which claimed to demonstrate a reduction in household transmission by between 40-50% in infected individuals after vaccination, so this assumption may be based on only a single paper. It is also worth noting that this paper was produced after the government began to press the idea that everybody, regardless of their levels of vulnerability, should be vaccinated, so there may be a degree of post hoc justification here. A reader of my last post on this issue writo to me to say that the data shows that evidence of household transmission in asymptomatic people is negligible – 0.7% in a large overview of studies. So even a 50% reduction of that means you go from a 0.7% chance of passing it on to 0.35%. ie from negligible to even more negligible! A reference to the relevant study is here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33315116/
Children to receive Covid-19 vaccinations? – A Theological Response

Categories: Morality Ethics

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