Vaccines and conscientious objection
In the war on Covid-19 have we made a casualty of conscience?
In an excellent letter published today on Daily Sceptic, an NHS Clinical Scientist of some 25 years explains why they are leaving the NHS. The letter makes a series of vital points and is a must read.
Interestingly, the first point raised is one which has been briskly and almost unilaterally brushed aside by health authorities and the media - conscientious objection to the use of cell-lines from aborted foetuses in the development of Covid-19 vaccines.
The subject is scarcely discussed in the media, yet 10% of Americans believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine conflicts with their religious beliefs. The issue is controversial enough that the UK government has produced a short guide, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health has produced detailed advice to persuade the hesitant that vaccines are, in fact, “pro life”. But as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” As such, there should be no Covid mandates or passports, for some people are deeply troubled by the use of foetal cells.
I drew attention to this issue in A State of Fear in relation to a video which encouraged BAME communities to take the vaccine:
This video claimed,
“The vaccine does not include pork or any material of foetal or animal origin.”
Well, that's a bit murky. Which vaccine? And how do you define “include”? AstraZeneca was the main vaccine in the UK at the time the video was released and it used cell-lines from aborted foetuses in research. The vaccine does not “contain” foetal material, yet would not exist without it. Does the difference matter? It does to some individuals. Does their conscience matter? Apparently not to those calling for mandates, passports, and jabs for jobs.
Later it also transpired that Pfizer & Moderna used cell-lines from aborted foetuses in research, and Johnson &Johnson did so in the production of the vaccines. (Finding information is a minefield, but this seems to be a good explanation of the different cell lines used in various vaccine R&D and production.)
I contacted the NHS, MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and the Cabinet Office about various claims in the video which I found concerning, including:
“There are no cases of significant side-effects among the millions of people who have received this vaccine.”
Side effects had occurred in vaccine trials and in the real world at that stage. The patient information safety leaflets listed serious side effects. This is to be expected, as all medicines and vaccines will incur some side effects, from mild to serious.
The Cabinet Office and the NHS would not comment on the video's claims when I contacted them. The MHRA replied with a standard boilerplate, but did not respond regarding the validity of the video’s claims. I suspect interest would have been higher if claims had run in the opposite direction criticising the vaccines.
My aim was not prove that the vaccines cause side effects (some side effects are to be expected), it was because I was staggered that this widely-shared video claimed that they did not cause any significant side effects. Misinformation impacts informed consent. The video went on to be aired on mainstream TV channels and newspaper websites, in the “biggest roadblock in television history”. The claim about side effects had been removed, although the statement about foetal material remained.
To take just one religion’s view on the Covid vaccine, the Catholic Pope declared that getting vaccinated is a “moral obligation” and an “act of love”. Historically, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life issued guidance on vaccines in 2005, reaffirmed in 2017, that in the absence of alternatives, Catholics may receive vaccines using foetal cell lines in good conscience. US Bishops have been split on the issue of which Covid vaccine is most moral. Archbishop Timothy Broglio made a statement that “no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience.” Organised religion can guide - in this case conflictually - but conscience is the voice of god within, and provides the over-riding moral imperative.
This was a foreseeable issue. Conflicts of conscience around foetal cell research are long-standing, and the potential to impact vaccine take up and pandemic response was predicted. The country’s leading authority on recovering from disaster, Professor Lucy Easthope, said:
“For many years, emergency planners have campaigned for better understanding of faith issues in emergency response and the measures used by responders. Vaccine hesitancy due to faith, and particularly stem cell research, was trained for and predicted. And still we did nothing about it.”
The faith issues are complex and are generally ignored or dealt with swiftly and judgementally. The best information I have come across for understanding and countering vaccine hesitancy in relation to foetal cells, Helping patients with ethical concerns about COVID-19 vaccines in light of fetal cell lines used in some COVID-19 vaccines, offers sensible counter-arguments, but nevertheless respects individual agency:
“Although I wish for all my patients to be vaccinated, I respect their autonomy to make the choice to be or not to be vaccinated and understand that many have a deep regard for fetal life.”
In war, we permit conscientious objectors not to fight. But during the war on Covid, our governments, public health authorities, the media and Big Pharma have ridden roughshod over conscience. Faith leaders have decided the vaccine is acceptable. That may suffice for some people of faith, but conscience is nevertheless a matter for the individual.
Society asks too much of the individual when it mandates vaccines with complicated bioethical provenance. In this war on a virus, one of the unintended casualties has been respect for conscience.
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" In this war on a virus, one of the unintended casualties has been respect for conscience."
the casualty was absolutely intended.
the war was aimed at getting obedience, and conscience is the nemesis of obedience....
Some wording that I found concerning in Pfizer's materials to the EMA:
“There may be pregnant women who choose to be vaccinated despite the lack of safety data”.
By the time this report was compiled, women (in the UK at least) were actively encouraged to get vaccinated.
Secondly, “The timing of vaccination in a pregnant woman and the subsequent immune response may have varying favourable or unfavourable impacts on the embryo/foetus”.
This sounds quite a significant piece of information to determine before actively telling women to get vaccinated.