Op-Ed: The Christian Duty To Vaccinate: A Family Physician’s Perspective

By: Dr. Chuck Williams

Science and Christianity have a complicated history. Galileo was placed on trial by the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 for his view that Earth and planets revolved around the sun. The Scopes trial of the 1920’s pitted the Modernists who believed evolution could co-exist with God as creator against the Fundamentalists who didn’t.

On the other hand, the Christian faith has produced significant contributions to science and medicine over the centuries. Following Jesus’s example, the early church was noted for tending the sick and infirm. Its emphasis on this ministry ultimately led to the development of nursing and hospitals. Today, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world with nearly 18,000 clinics and 5,500 hospitals, 65 percent of them located in developing countries.

During the Great Plague of the mid-1300s – which killed nearly half of Europe’s population at the time – an estimated 40% of priests sacrificed their own lives as they cared for the sick and dying.

Gregor Mendel, Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver, and Florence Nightingale are just a few well-known examples of devout Christians who advanced scientific understanding and served humanity.

Thus, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of 600,000 Americans and over four million people worldwide, one would expect the church to lead the charge for vaccinations, care for the sick, and advocate for public health measures that would slow the spread of the virus. Instead, the American evangelical reaction has been one of indifference, ambivalence, and at times even hostility toward the measures suggested by scientists and physicians to end the public health crisis.

The development of the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the greatest scientific achievements of our lifetimes and remains far and away the most effective way to end the pandemic. Viruses cannot continue to replicate without human hosts and everyone in the population – young and old – are potential carriers of the virus.

While the numbers have improved in recent weeks, still only 49% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Recent data shows white evangelical Protestants remain the religious group most likely to refuse vaccination (24% in a poll conducted in June). In Johnston County, only around 40% of our citizens are fully vaccinated.

I’d like to explore some reasons why Christians should see vaccinations as a moral imperative and an outworking of their faith. I’ll then address some of the common questions we answer about the vaccine in our medical practice every day as we continue to encourage patients to be vaccinated.

The Christian case for vaccination

1. Love of neighbor. Jesus taught “loving your neighbor” as the second greatest commandment; a natural extension of the first commandment to love God fully with heart, soul, and mind. In his letter to the church at Philippi the apostle Paul writes, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Vaccinations for any disease have always been about the common good of the community. A decision to vaccinate protects not just the individual who takes the shot but countless others who could be affected by the virus. The Christian ethics of benevolence, love, and putting aside personal priorities for the good of others should be practiced by all followers of Jesus.

Christians are called to be selfless and vaccination is in many senses a selfless act – participating ensures that many others will be afforded protection.

2. Care for the vulnerable. The COVID-19 virus has been most deadly for our elderly and chronically ill. Those in countries outside the U.S. with fragile, under-resourced health care systems face even greater danger from the virus. The Christian message is one of love for the vulnerable and the marginalized, the very groups most impacted by the pandemic.

Christian leaders from Franklin Graham (Samaritan’s Purse) to Dr. Francis Collins (head of the NIH) to Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church) have advocated for Christians to be vaccinated. In an interview in January of this year Pope Francis argued that getting vaccinated “is the [obligatory] moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”

3. Being a light on the hill. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells his followers they are to be the “light of the world”. Living out Jesus’s message involves showing love and compassion in addressing social issues that impact everyone.

Christians should be front and center in battling the pandemic – just as they should be in their advocacy for the unborn, fighting racial discrimination, ending human trafficking, caring for the poor, and protecting God’s creation.

On a global scale the church should advocate for sharing of vaccination resources with less wealthy countries and people groups around the world. To date, the wealthier countries of the world have used the highest proportion of vaccine resources. The pandemic doesn’t end for us until it ends for everyone.

Common questions about the vaccine

Is the vaccine still too new?

Not any more – nearly 350 million doses of the vaccine have now been given in the United States. Over four billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given worldwide. Any serious issues with vaccines would have been expected to develop within the first few months of administration. While no vaccine is completely free of side effects the odds of any serious side effect with the COVID vaccine are quite rare and certainly pale in comparison to the risks of contracting the virus itself.

I’m young and healthy – so why should I get vaccinated?

While not considered to be at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19, serious cases do occur among younger, healthier people. The CDC also warns of the potential long-term health effects of COVID-19 infection, even for those who experience mild illness.

In addition, young people can still be carriers of the virus and contribute to community spread without ever having symptoms. If we want to get rid of masks, get schools back to normal, and keep hospitals from again being overwhelmed as they were this past winter we need to vaccinate as many people as possible so the virus runs out of hosts.

Did the vaccine use aborted fetal cells in its development?

This is an important question for many and numerous theologians and ethicists have addressed it.

BioLogos – a Christian ministry which studies questions on science and religious belief – summarizes the issue with the following:

It’s important to state this clearly: The individual human cells used for some vaccines’ development today are not, and have never been, part of an actual human body or fetus. How does this work? The original cells in question were isolated from one of several fetuses aborted in the 1960s and 1970s. Those cells were kept alive in a lab, for a brief period, to generate what’s called an “immortalized” cell line. Decades after the death of the original fetal cells, cells that descended from the original (fetal) cells are the ones used in the development of certain vaccines. These lab-grown cells are therefore not properly considered fetal tissue at all … abortions were not performed in order to supply these cells, nor do the resulting vaccines contain human cells or fetal material in any way.”

Organizations such as the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, The Evangelical Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, and the Roman Catholic Church have all studied this issue thoughtfully and concluded that it is morally acceptable for Christians to take the COVID vaccine.

If some vaccinated people still get COVID-19 why should I get vaccinated?

While it’s true we are seeing some breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals with the recent surge of the “delta variant” of the virus, these instances remain uncommon. More importantly, over 99.5% of COVID hospitalizations and deaths occur in unvaccinated people. The most important goal of COVID vaccinations is to prevent serious illness and the vaccine is delivering extraordinarily well on this front.

In summary, the COVID vaccine has been shown to be safe, effective, and to work remarkably well in preventing hospitalization and death from the virus. Christians should be especially vocal in their advocacy for vaccinations and public health measures to combat the virus.

If you haven’t yet been vaccinated please visit myshot.nc.gov for the vaccine provider nearest you. You can even pick which of the three vaccines you’d like to have. The health of our county, state, nation and world depends on everyone loving their neighbor.

For more information on the vaccine from a Christian perspective please visit christiansandthevaccine.com.

Chuck Williams, MD is a family physician with Horizon Family Medicine of Clayton. Dr. Williams is the co-founder of Project Access, a medical non-profit dedicated to providing healthcare for the uninsured of Johnston County. He also serves as the medical director for Ichoose Pregnancy Center and on the board of the Partnership for Children of Johnston County.

41 COMMENTS

  1. Sir,
    As a fellow Christian, I would like to ask you 2 things:

    1. Do you not believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ? I assume the Dr. before your name means doctorate in Theology, not medicine. As a doctor of religion, you must have read at some point in your studies and career that Jesus Christ is The Great Physician. I put my faith in that, not in a man made vaccine that, according to most doctors of medicine and scientists, is causing more harm than good. Why get rid of the virus, that has a 99.2% rate of being healed, just to get cardio vascular system problems or even worse, as time will tell.

    2. What qualifies you to give the “Christian Perspective”? Isn’t this really just your perspective? 99% of the Christians I know and have actually talked to are against the vaccine, not for selfish reasons, but because they believe in freedom of choice, scientific data, and the healing power of Jesus Christ. Please do not speak for all Christians. You may be one of us, but you are not chosen to speak on our behalf.

    May God bless you and keep you safe from the side effects of the poisonous vaccine.

    • Response to the first thing

      1. Try reading

      “Chuck Williams, MD is a family physician with Horizon Family Medicine of Clayton. Dr. Williams is the co-founder of Project Access, a medical non-profit dedicated to providing healthcare for the uninsured of Johnston County. He also serves as the medical director for Ichoose Pregnancy Center and on the board of the Partnership for Children of Johnston County.”

      Jason you need to start reading all of the text and not just the few bits that make you fume. Stop spreading lies about “most”, “all”, “99%” and all the other bull statistics you use in your argument. Jesus is a great healer. G*d also sends us his healers in the form of doctors, nurses, and scientist that worked tirelessly to get us this vaccine. It is your choice not to get vaccinated, just don’t spread lies and misinformation to those who might actually want to but are on the fence.

    • Jason your reasoning doesn’t hold up. You seem to be advocating for no medical intervention because Jesus is the Great Physician. Does that mean when you have a splitting headache you refuse Tylenol? When you have heart failure do you simply pray and not seek help from the doctor or surgeon? If you develop cancer do you refuse treatment and trust that Jesus will take care of things Himself? Do you not trust that God can do His work through His people? Are we not made in His image? Surely God’s creations can be instruments used for the greater good of humanity. I would think any Christian would recognize that God works through actions of His people as well as through prayer.

      Also your numbers appear made up out of thin air. Both sides of my family are active in Church, some Protestant and some Catholic, but in my experience 100% are vaccinated who are eligible. I realize my family could be drastically different than others, but saying 99% of the Christians you know are anti vaccine is dumbfounding. We have a duty to protect others and care for our neighbors, by refusing proven vaccines we are actively putting others at risk, we can talk about personal choice and freedoms all we want, but if you choose not to get vaccinated we are choosing NOT to care for our neighbors. It doesn’t seem like a very Christian choice.

      You also argue for not getting the vaccine simply because the virus is “99.2%” healable, but yet imply the vaccine is more dangerous. This is simply inaccurate. The risk of side effects from the vaccine is MUCH lower than the risk of contracting the virus. So if you simply want to play the odds, the vaccine is the safer bet.

      There just isn’t any good reason to not get vaccinated unless you have some sort of underlying issues that your doctor specifically recommends against you getting it.

      May God bless you and yours and keep you away from the poisonous side effects of the virus.

    • Thank you Jason for stating exactly what I feel. God will heal, God gave is an immune system for a reason.

      If masks work why the shot? If the shot works, why the masks? If both work why arent numbers improving? Why for the first time in history are we paying and bribing people to get a shot for a disease that has a 99.9% recovery rate?

      This writer has a conflict of interest as his clinic receives payment for shot administration as well as insurance payments for those who are sick. It’s in his best interest to promote a shot that makes people more sick cause he gets paid twice!

      • Your questions have been asked and answered so many times. You choose to use this dodge to justify your personal decisions. Mask HELP prevent the spread from YOU to others. Vaccines work to protect you. I’ve been vaccinated because I care about myself AND others. The numbers did get much better. However, the virus mutated, as viruses do, and is not attacking younger people. This begs the question do you not read or is it that you can’t read news reports.

        To cite his potential conflict of interest in no way changes his message nor the truth of it.

        Lastly, you cite God’s immune system. If you do not see a doctor, dentist or other healthcare professional ever, then you have standing to make this statement. If you take or see a healthcare profession then your statement screams LIAR and HYPOCRIT.

        Denying the truth never changes the truth.

        • Love it, John! You are exactly right. These people that claim they are trusting Jesus to take care of them seem to forget about all our great brothers and sisters in Christ that have succumbed to COVID. I’m sure they had just as much faith. But, thankfully God provides for healing on earth through the assistance of our fellow man until our divine healing takes place. Keep up the good responses!

    • Dr. Charles Williams IS one of the finest medical doctors in our county and state. I know because he is my physician and I am blessed to be his patient. So please don’t assume that his doctorate is In theology. Not only is he a great medial doctor, he is a wonderful example of someone who lives and walks a Christian life. We all need to care for one another and unite together to beat this virus, not tear each other down.

  2. Very well said Dr. Williams. Thank you for being a voice of reason and attempting to extend an olive branch to those who are on the fence or have been misled.

  3. Icky. When a luke warm follower of Christ attempts to speak for all followers of Christ. 🤢🤮

    The Dr. doesn’t even respect the Word enough to post the entirety of Jesus’ quote “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    It’s like Dr. Luke Warm here purposefully left off “as yourself”. 🤔 I wonder why that could be? This misquote is also the a favorite of LGBTQIAXYZ supporters/weirdos when attempting to confront/convert followers of Christ.

    You know how much I love myself? Enough to never doubt the goodness and perfectness of God and enough to openly confess my sins then turn away from them.

    But you don’t want me to love you like that, 😜, now do you? 😂😂😂 This is why they always leave off the “as yourself.” They don’t want you to actually teach to, preach to, or reach anyone with a self sustaining Word from God.

    Dr., you sir are clearly a blasphemer and probably a terrible doctor 🤡 to boot. Nice try though, I’m sure leftist self proclaimed “modern” Christians here on JOCOReport are going to lap this up. 😂😜🤢🤮🤮🤮🤮

      • Well John, my church is everywhere. So looks like you’d better muzzle up 😷 and lock yourself in for the long haul. 😘

        • People harp about freedom, but remember with freedom comes responsibly such as looking out for others the world is much bigger than one’s self. So tired of these anti vaccine rants and the people who stolke the flames it selfish and self centered. People are right it’s their right not to get a vaccine but if you like sitting at home a not doing anything go ahead because that is where it is headed like it or not. Just don’t get negative to people who choose to get the vaccine for one reason you think the virus is bad for your health talking down to people for getting a vaccine may prove to be bad for your health too. We all got vaccinated before we went to school or travel abroad this thing is not going anywhere it will probably become as common as the flu and the vaccine will definitely be there to keep it at bay, there will be more and more viruses coming in future years with the world population rising it is what it is so if you don’t want it don’t take it but when you get the virus stay home health care workers are tired and at wits end stay home and pray to your god and hope that you get better hopefully it will work out for you if not you had the opportunity to not be sick. But the rest of us will be at the big kids table enjoying our lives and not letting the kung flu control our lives.

          • I don’t know about you but I’m out enjoying life quite nicely without the vax and masks! I have been since day 1. Got covid, beat it despite being in a high risk category because it has a 99.9% survival rate for those under 50. Can’t say the same for the vax with 45,000 dead within 72 hours of being vaxxed. Previous shots were stopped with under 100 dead from the vax but this one is allowed to kill 1000s and not be stopped, hmmm…

      • Ahhh, nice. Use the old “I know the Bible” dodge. Let me use it to confuse and justify. You are the very “Christians” that give the rest of us a bad name. If you noticed, I used the uncapitalized church, as in a local body of believers. But, I suspect you know that. You just want to come across as smug and holier than though. You probably pray in public with fancy words to sound important and rend your clothes also. You quote the law but don’t live it.

        See what I did there? I used my knowledge of the Bible to call you out for your words and action. Paul wrote letters to “churches” like yours. You might want to read them.

    • Why all this hate Abernathy? This makes you look so insecure. Also, are you calling the LGBTQIA community “weirdos?” We can clearly see your values on loving thy neighbor (but only if they look and act like you). You assume so much about other people. I see it in every post and you are wrong nearly every time. If nothing else, you are consistent.
      I wish that we were better strangers.
      Also, grown folk don’t use emojis in educated arguments, so…

    • What a classy Christian like response! Somewhere Jesus must be smiling. Clearly you have much love your fellow man, no matter if they are just like you in appearance and thought or completely different. Your love and compassion knows no end! All of that AND the smartest guy in the room. Amazing.

  4. Another ignorant quack who is part of a corrupt system. Religion has NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!!!! FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!!!! NO informed consent, inserts from the vaccine left purposefully blank, no prior long term studies, thousands dying from the VAX (as well as blood clots, heart inflammation, neurological damage, miscarriages, loss of motor control, I could go on and on). The CDC is being sued for fraud and manipulating the VAERS data. These doctors are not half as smart as they think they are and its time people figured that out. Do some research. Do not use Google for your research because they censor the truth.

    • TT
      Many more died from cigarettes. A Johnston county cash crop so much about religious people caring about others when they grew a crop just for profit and didn’t care how it affected others. The science was there that prove cigarettes were deadly but they kept growing it anyway because they didn’t care about their fellow man Christian hypocrites

  5. You’ve left out much history on how governments have dictated churches over the past centuries and enforced torture when people didn’t comply with their rules. God has given us free will over our salvation. We should also have free will over taking the vaccine or not. If the vaccine is so wonderful why are people, including doctors being censored when they try to communicate the negative impacts these vaccines have on many?

  6. If vaccines work why is anyone worried abt others vax status? If you have the measles vax do you worry abt anyone around you having the measles or do you trust the vax to protect you?

  7. Often people can’t quite see beyond themselves, so they make assumptions as to why people who disagree with them act differently or make choices they themselves would not make. While I am vaccinated, I do not look down on those who are not. It is their personal choice they are free to make whether Christians or not. I would never, as a Christian, claim to speak for Jesus, God, or all Christians on whether it is someone’s duty or responsibility to act a certain way. People are individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences that inform their decisions. Now, if I see a fellow brother or sister living in sin, of course God calls us to address that privately with that individual to help them grow in God’s love. It is not for me to make such judgments against others when it comes to personal choices that are not sinful. Division is not God’s hope for humanity and yet in this opinion piece and tge comments I see many sowing division and continuing to separate people in this case the vaccinated or unvaccinated and condemning and demonizing whichever side with which they disagree. It is not helpful, productive, or representative of God’s love. I wish there was more engagement with those who think differently to better understand one another and find areas of agreement and unity.

  8. I am wondering about all of these “informed” people who do THEIR own “research?” Dr. Williams is a Physician, and a Medical Doctor. I believe he has done HIS research. Unless you are the same, any “research” you are going to do will be relying on the “opinions” of others, either with actual credentials or some talking head on TV. Your comments are then not based on “the science” or your own “research”, they are simply based upon the opinions of someone who shares your view of the world.

    • Frank, I understand the numbers don’t lie but liars will use numbers too. He uses the numbers that supports his political opinion just as any other person at the same level can use number that destroys his options. The same opinions that believe in the climate change bull crap and that man is going to change the weather by more taxes. Man can not change the earth’s weather no more than a man can be a woman. But you add higher education into this and it is told to be the truth. To believe in that in which can’t be proven beyond any doubt. It becomes your religion and is called faith. All of you still have the right to worship climate change and LBGQ along with the mask that are just a political pawn worn on your sleeve as others say do with the sign of the fish and the fish with legs

  9. In the Qur’an, God – Exalted Be He – proclaims that we should “…ask the people endowed with knowledge…” if we do not know [16:43]. All the experts in this arena, scientists, infectious diseases physicians and epidemiologists, are saying the same thing: please get vaccinated and do it now.

    • Except they are all listening to the paid off people from the CDC and FDA. The CDC and FDA are owned by the pharmaceutical industry… total conflict of interest. There are many, many, many doctors who are speaking out about the shot and the impact they are seeing with side effects and deaths on their patients.

  10. Please folks, let’s stop trying to convince these morons to get the vaccine, or wear a mask.
    Allow them to die in peace.
    And please don’t spend my taxes on attempting to force them to live.
    It’s their choice. Let them slip away.
    The rest of us can try to avoid them.
    Bye Bye!!

    • Exactly, I am very much comfortable with this attitude. Although it also needs to also be applied to the morons taking the experimental shots as well. We really need to be letting everyone make their own decisions, not spend any taxes on their health care, and associate with or avoid anyone we wish to.

  11. Funny. This opens with a lie. Galileo was not persecuted by church for his scientific findings. He mocked the church openly and lied during an inquisition. His science was badly flawed as well but it had nothing to do w why he was eventually sentenced to house arrest.

  12. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10
    My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. – Hosea 4:6

    Dr. Williams isn’t it your job to properly inform your patients of the risks that come along with this vaccine? Yet I know you don’t! You told my husband there was nothing in this vaccine that would harm him!!! Really sir?! Now we all know that’s not true, or those of us that take the time to look into what’s actually in these vaccines!! I guarantee you wouldn’t sign a liable assumption!? You make money off of vaccines!! I’ve looked you up! Thousands and thousands of dollars!! You also back the masks, and you know the medical masks and cloth masks don’t protect against small particles!! I wonder why you would back that? Who stands 6 ft apart with masks on… oh yes, a SATANIC CULT. Sir, let me remind you of 2 Corinthians 11:14 And it is no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Judgement is coming for ALL, no one will escape it! ALL TRUTH will be revealed. Nuremberg Code… your sir, will be held responsible for your actions!

  13. Also, is it not our job as Christians for our community to speak truth and stand firm in the word of God?! See Sir, we would not be doing the community good, if we allowed lies from the mockingbird bird media that is PAID to say things on TV, just as you are PAID from BIG PHARMA to do whatever and say whatever to inject poison into people’s arms. Money is the root of ALL evil. How do you feel like you are being Christian and doing your community good when you are LYING to them?

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