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COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Need to Know

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
December 18, 2020 5:00 am

COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Need to Know

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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December 18, 2020 5:00 am

Infectious disease specialists Dr. Daniel Hinthorn and Dr. Scott James share an informative perspective on COVID-19 vaccines, discussing their historic nature and the rapid speed of their development. Our guests answer common questions about the vaccines, addressing practical concerns and next steps while taking a look at where the pandemic may be heading in the coming months.

Read a statement on COVID-19 vaccines from Focus on the Family's Physicians Resource Council: https://media.focusonthefamily.com/topicinfo/COVID-19Vaccines.pdf

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You get a tax deduction for the fair market value, avoid tax on the appreciation of the stock, and turn that savings into a gift for families. For more information on non-cash giving, visit FocusNonCashGift.com. Welcome to Focus on the Family. You've no doubt heard many things about the coronavirus vaccines that are being rolled out and many have contacted us here at Focus on the Family asking questions about the vaccine. So today we want to help you get the information you need to keep yourself and your family safe and well informed. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. John, this is a big moment in the culture as this week the vaccines begin to roll out and people are taking those shots and many people in a priority way will be having to decide will I take it or will I not. And some have described this as a hornet's nest, but we want to inform you about what we know, what many of you the listeners may not realize is that we have a Physician's Resource Council here at Focus on the Family for years, 35 to 40 doctors meet twice a year here at the Focus campus, they look at our medical information, our medical advice to ensure that it's medically accurate, they help us with bioethical issues, they have been a cornerstone to the effort here at Focus on the Family again for many years and we are grateful to lean on them for advice in the medical arena and we're going to do that today.

Yes, and we should note they're not paid advisors, these are people that donate their time and energies to help focus on the family and our mission. We're so glad to have Dr. Dan Henthorne here and Dr. Scott James, they're with us remotely today. They're both infectious disease specialists on that Physician's Resource Council and Dr. Henthorne practices in Kansas, Dr. James in Alabama, both have families and children and we're so glad to have them today. Dr. Henthorne and Dr. James, thanks for being with us. Thank you, my pleasure to be with you.

Yeah, it's so good to have your expertise and I do want to say publicly thank you for what you do for Focus on the Family on the PRC and giving us that great professional guidance when it comes to medical issues, bioethical issues, etc. In a moment we're going to get to the concerns but let me start at that intersection of God and science. I mean you both are faithful believers in Jesus Christ, you've dedicated your life to science to medicine. Do those two coexist in a single person? Actually they do fit together quite well and in fact on our faculty we have a large number of people who are believers and who practice good science.

So yes, they can go together, I suspect you do the same thing in Alabama. Yeah, I firmly believe that the heavens declare the glory of the Lord and so I think all creation, all nature testifies to the goodness of our Creator and if I can look up to the heavens and glorify God because of it then it stands to reason that I can also look through a microscope and look in the opposite direction and see the glory of God at a microscopic level in my scientific pursuits as well. Let me start with the question on the vaccine. Just generally, how does a vaccine work in the body, whether it's measles or any other vaccines that have been created, how does it work in the body and why are they effective? Well vaccines are ways that we can artificially stimulate the body to have resistance to whatever agent we're dealing with, whether it's a virus and most of these that we have are viruses. Ordinarily we use a virus that's weakened or modified virus in some way and so that's simplistically what we do. So the body builds antibodies as if we'd already had the virus infection itself and therefore we're resistant to it in the future. That's the ordinary way that we do this and the current vaccine with COVID however is a different mechanism. We don't use the same route that we use for most of our other vaccines. So it's a novel vaccine we say because it uses something that sort of sidesteps everything called messenger RNA that has been studied for probably 30 years or so and it just wouldn't work for years after years because the messenger RNA, although what happens is usually we start with DNA and then the DNA gets unzipped and it gets copied and messenger RNA goes out into the cell to the ribosomes and it attacks the ribosomes and makes proteins against whatever it is it's making and what we do is we bypass those steps by injecting messenger RNA directly into the body with the lipid attached to the messenger RNA and it begins to make proteins that look like the cell's been infected.

So the body then develops a resistance to that particular virus which in this case is COVID and that's the way that it works. It works quite nicely in fact protecting probably close to 95% of people who get it which is remarkable, much better than we thought. In fact we said if we can do 50% protection with a new vaccine that'll be great so to get 95% protection would be wonderful. Dr. James let me ask you, many people are concerned or some people are concerned about the speed in which this vaccine arrived, cut years off the process.

Is there any concern medically that there were shortcuts taken that might you know create harm if someone takes the vaccine? When you look at the overall time course that it typically takes a vaccine to go through the development process it's definitely true that the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being studied have been proceeding at a faster pace than we typically see and that's just arisen out of the urgency of the moment. The pandemic and the healthcare crisis that we've seen have motivated people to find ways to not cut corners but to speed up the regulatory process. So the vaccine studies have proceeded quickly but I can confidently say that they have the same rigorous scientific standards that any vaccine or any therapeutic would need to go through.

So there have been no corners cut and I would say just based on the public's interest in this and the urgency of the moment I would say that if anything the transparency and the scrutiny and the oversight have been even greater in this situation due to the urgent need of the pandemic. Yeah Dr. Henthorne and Dr. James mentioned the regulatory process. It's my understanding that some of these vaccines were actually in development very very early on much earlier than many of us would have known.

What's your thought on that? Yeah that's actually a kind of a benefit of the mRNA vaccine that Dr. Henthorne sort of walked us through but with this technique which as Dr. Henthorne said we've been studying this for years there are other mRNA vaccines and therapeutics for other viruses and even some cancer therapeutics that have been in development so this was not something that someone just sort of immediately invented when COVID hit but they were able to take advantage of some groundwork that had already been done and the nice thing about the mRNA vaccine methodology is that as soon as you know the genetic code of the virus that you're seeking to gain protection against you can take that genetic code and within a matter of days weeks in this instance the initial researchers had a template for an mRNA vaccine that they could then coat with those lipid particles that Dr. Henthorne was mentioning to deliver so the actual ramp up and development design of the vaccine itself thanks to the kind of progress that scientists have made in the past decade or so. For us that don't work in the field of medicine and science, describe a little bit more about the mRNA, what that is and how that's different from others. So the mRNA it basically delivers a set of instructions that allows a cell to build a specific part of the virus so in this case for the COVID-19 vaccine it's giving the our bodies cell a little instruction manual to build a spike protein which is one of the proteins that's on the surface of the coronavirus and it's the protein that actually signals our immune system to respond by making protective antibodies so the mRNA is delivered into the cell because it's got a this sort of wrapped in this lipid layer to kind of keep it stable once it gets into the cell it delivers those instructions our cell then picks up that RNA makes little pieces of this spike protein so it does not in any way make an entire virus or anything that could be infective but it makes just enough of a part of the virus that would signal our immune system to make those protective antibodies and it's as the studies have shown and has been very effective at doing that.

One of the advantages also is that mRNA is very fragile so when this mRNA is delivered into the cell it delivers its instructions the cell makes a spike protein that triggers the immune response but then from there the mRNA itself is very quickly broken down by just our normal metabolic pathways and so there's no residual there's nothing left over there's nothing that's gonna linger in the cells and cause potential you know unforeseen effects down the road the mRNA is it delivers its instructions and then it gets degraded quickly. Let me ask you Dr. James some have expressed concern that they believe it somehow changes their DNA I don't believe that's true but what's the science on that that somehow the virus can change a person's DNA? For these mRNA vaccines in particular no that's not a concern mRNA is not going to travel into the nucleus so typically our DNA and our cells the DNA makes the mRNA and it transports it out of the nucleus and it's kind of a one-way street in that regard so the mRNA does not cross into our cells nucleus and so therefore it's not going to interact with our DNA there's no real mechanism even scientifically for it to do that or insert itself or in other in any other way change or alter our DNA. Let me address a big issue and that is the use of aborted fetal tissue in the development of vaccines and that's very convoluted when it comes to COVID-19 but what is the issue there obviously as Christians we're concerned about that and again the purpose of this program is to inform you our listener so that you can make the decisions you feel you need to make I want to make sure you have the information and we're talking again to two experts who can deliver that so Dr. James when it comes to the use of fetal tissue in these vaccines where are we at? Yeah so in research laboratories there are particularly ones that work with viruses there are lots of cell lines these are immortal cell lines that kind of are self-generating and continue on and so all of these at one point had a seed some cell or a piece of tissue that was collected at some point whether that be from human animal insect there's many varieties and they perpetuate on in the lab and are readily available unfortunately some of those were originally obtained from tissues taken from the body of an aborted baby and so there are a few particular cell lines most all of these cell lines have their providence pretty clearly marked out so that you know where things originated from and the reason for using these particularly in virus for any of the cell lines is just that you need that to actually work with the virus and multiply it so that you can use it and study it unfortunately some of the cell lines that are particularly well adapted to working with viruses did have that origination in the tissue from an aborted baby I think one thing to sort of keep in mind is that these are historical cell lines and they've been very clearly studied and validated and are very they're easy to use scientifically because we know what to expect with them researchers who use them do but they're historical in the sense that there are no ongoing additional cells that needed to be added to those so while we can as pro-life people we can clearly say that we are saddened and not okay with how these were originally how the tissues became available the ongoing usage of a cell line that has that origin in the lab is not perpetuating or contributing to further abortions and so my personal estimation in that case would be that use of a life-saving measure that has no other you know ethically sourced options in that sense would be permissible I personally think that that would not be enough of a connection to make me complicit in the original evil act that brought about that that tissue being available I appreciate that Dr. Henthorn would you want to add to that yes you know I think people should be aware of the fact that the messenger RNA vaccines neither one of them are made in cells from aborted fetuses they're not even made in cells they're made in the in big bats and so these are chemicals that are brought together and so from that standpoint they are not created from fetal cell lines however often these kinds of vaccines are checked in fetal cell lines just to see if they work but that's not making them that way so if you get the either Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine neither one of these is made in a fetal cell line so we don't have to worry about that one are there others that we should be if we have that conviction are there others that are coming out that we should be aware of yes there are a number of those that are and it's a matter of looking to see at each one that comes out is this one made in the fetal cell line disappointed or not but these particular ones with messenger RNA or not and you know if I can follow in on that one thing that I really appreciate about how this is occurring is that there's a high level of transparency with this so people are going to have some different convictions on this across the board whether pro-life or not and so the level of transparency about what cells are used in the production and development of the different vaccine options that may come available assuming that the other ones do reach the level of approval is really good and it gives us that option so that as Dr. Henthorne said that the first one that has been approved and potentially one that is going to be approved these two do not use historic cell lines that were historically derived from aborted fetal tissue in their design production or any of that nature so it's good to have options like that so I'm grateful for that. Well I appreciate that input and again I think we can go to extremes that all vaccines are made that way or this way and then we don't understand what is morally more acceptable and we'll post that at the website those vaccines that are not derived from fetal tissue and those that are in that way people will know.

Let me let me move to another question and Dr. Henthorne will start with you and then go to Dr. James. Just the general suspicion of vaccines I mean there's been a lot in the media over the years about vaccine and side effects etc. speak to the general construct of that fear and then specifically to COVID-19 and what the research is showing with side effects with these vaccines. Well there is there's so much information against vaccines by so many people I think a lot of it began in the middle of 1990s with a researcher in England who published a paper that really was not valid it was invalid and he purportedly showed that vaccines did all kinds of bad things in children and that really wasn't true and when it was checked out it started to be fabricated. He lost his license and that paper was revoked the Lancet said no this isn't right and a number of British Medical Journal and other journals said no this wasn't correct but since that time there have been a number of people who have been talking about this and online and in the media have written against vaccines for one reason or another. Vaccines do cause problems sometimes in some people and we know that but we as physicians and researchers are all quick to show the situations where they might cause problems and what population is that a person might have an issue with the vaccine. Now sometimes some of the vaccines are made in eggs and in that situation there can be egg allergy there could be other kinds of allergies against components of the vaccines and we all are upfront about it trying to make sure that we don't give those to anyone who might have a reaction to it but then there's some people who are just anti-vaccine because they say well it can cause autoimmune disease and sometimes some of those things do happen they're very very rare don't happen very often but they are described. So there are a number of reasons why people can be opposed to vaccines themselves but by and large vaccines have probably saved more lives in the history of the world than maybe any other way that we have ever done anything to save lives of people but just because of of the measles and rubella and mumps and on all of the vaccines that we have smallpox we've saved many many lives. Yeah Dr. James what about the effect of COVID-19 vaccines are they seeing anything detrimental or causing harm? That has been remarkably encouraging so far the the one we have the most data on is the the Pfizer vaccine the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine that has the emergency use authorization right now compared to placebo so this was a large randomized controlled placebo trial meaning it compared people who received the vaccine versus people who received a placebo which is a saline shot or a non-entity and compared to those who received the placebo there was no significant increase in the rate of of adverse effect or side effect or anything like that what reactions there were were on the mild side so this would be things like a sore arm where the injection was a little bit of fever for a day or so some fatigue some headache and most of these were gone within two days and I would kind of also point out just the general concept that any medical intervention that that we give has a potential side effect so whether or not it's you know the aspirin you're taking for a headache or a diabetes pill that you need to take to help control your diabetes any of those are possibly going to have side effects and so when we do any medical intervention it's a risk-benefit analysis of do I think the risk of getting COVID-19 is greater than the risk of having a possible side effect to the vaccine and so that's that's where these large clinical trials are helpful in understanding kind of where to how to tip the balance for that but thankfully that information is out there so parents who are you know wanting to do the best thing for themselves and their families anyone is going to have the information available to kind of help make that decision for themselves. Finally I appreciate that I think you've stated that very well finally let me just end where we started and that is God's perspective on these things more of the theological bent on what we're seeing maybe as professionals obviously but also as followers of Christ these things that happen my wife who you know has always told me is with a degree in biology it's going to be the bacteria and the viruses that get us what's the perspective on that spiritually about harm coming to humanity God's perspective on this this is all part of his creation that's a big question but what do you think the the lesson is for us to learn at a spiritual level? That's a tough question it's interesting that the Bible has a lot of information about pandemics in the end times and people have said well we're living in the end times because we're going to see these pandemics well we've had a number of pandemics and it doesn't mean that we're in the end times I think that's been the natural history of the world if we look back over the last hundreds of years we can certainly see that in terms of what the Bible says about vaccinations and how do we prevent these kinds of things it's quiet on that but they weren't invented until much later but the Bible is big on planning in fact Jesus himself talks about accolades to the people who planned ahead and then of course a number of times God encourages people like Noah and Jonah and so forth to plan Joseph to plan for the food and so forth so they didn't have a vaccine to plan for to help prevent some of these things but the Bible does emphasize thinking ahead and planning for the future and being ready for what might occur so I think that fits with our theology but it doesn't say things specific about we're talking about yeah and I think as a follower of Christ I think it's clear that I look around and I see a lot of heartache I see a lot of things going sideways I have friends and family members and colleagues who are at funerals today so I believe that we're in a situation here where a lot of people are hurting and I'm discouraged by that however I do take a firm and confident lead from God himself and so I in the end just despite the hurdles that we're having to overcome right now I trust that God is in control and I trust that even pandemics and plagues occur for his glory and for our good in some ultimate sense even if I can't see how things fit together in that moment so I trust that he is in control I'm not thrown by what the world is handing us right now God is still seated on his throne and he is still good he's serving us and pouring his grace out on us even now through common grace of medical interventions and frontline healthcare workers and vaccines that are being developed I mean these are good gifts that come from God in a sense that it's not it's not a gift of salvation in a spiritual sense but it's a gift of common grace and help when we need it and so I just want to live in that and appreciate that and appreciate the gifts that he gives us through that and then I want to take advantage of the opportunity that I have to demonstrate his love to the world around me and so I think living in a responsible way right now that is looking out for the good of our neighbor is a particular hallmark of the Christian walk right now right like loving our neighbor that's kind of our thing so this is our time to shine this is our time to really demonstrate to the world that God is good and that we are here for others and we are here to serve them and to help them you know find ultimately find God but also have health in the short term and so you know I don't look at getting vaccinated as some sort of test of Christian faith or Christian love or anything like that but I do think that something like this is an opportunity to love our neighbor and it's a way to take a specific action that protects vulnerable people in our communities and so as a follower of Christ I want to wisely think about how I engage that opportunity. I so appreciate that I think you know several things come to mind one of which is that great scripture John 10 10 the thief comes to steal kill and destroy but I come that you might have life and life more abundantly I think this all fits under that banner the idea that medical advancements help save us help keep us from physical harm and I think you can tuck those things in there and the fact that God has given us the wisdom the ability the knowledge that you two contribute to every day in your profession your vocation as physicians to be able to help people it's much different today than it was two thousand years ago poor doctor Luke did not have the knowledge that we have today and we should see that as a good thing that God has given humanity that kind of wisdom and insight to keep us from harm not always but in many many cases now and again I want to urge our listeners don't give into fear be informed be faithful in prayer just as the doctor mentioned we want to equip you to make the best decision you can make I'm not trying to twist an arm one way or the other but I do believe it's critical for you to have the information and to know what is scientifically accurate and I know that this issue within the Christian community is really controversial and I get it certainly we want to hear from you let us know your thoughts and you can go to the website I know we're taking a little poll there with who plans to get the vaccine and who doesn't just for information purposes we just want to know our community and how you're feeling about it so I'd encourage you to do that and please remember focus on the family is here for you to equip you and I'm so grateful once again to the Physician Resource Council for what they do day in and day out to help focus be medically accurate to review these things to help us with bioethical issues etc we are indebted to these doctors that work with us to ensure that we have first a Christian foundation to what we're saying and secondly a medically accurate perspective on what we put out here at focus on the family and to Dr. Henthorne and Dr. James thank you for being with us today thank you for the perspective thank you for the information we really appreciate it you're welcome thanks Jim thanks for having us and you'll find all the information that we've referenced along the way here including that poll and some downloadable documents on our website the links are in the notes and then we do have some additional content with the doctors that we just can't squeeze into this radio program and that's going to be online as well on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team thanks for joining us today for focus on the family have a great weekend and we'll see you here next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. Life was fragile in the Old West a trust in God reliance on prayer and a love of family were necessities for a perilous journey and that's still true today artist Morgan Weisling captures these timeless themes in his new special edition sign she clay from focus on the family Morgan calls it a prayer for new life a reminder of the sanctity of life in the harsh environments of this world it will find a special place in your home for a limited time you can get this special edition print at focus on the family dot com slash prayer for life.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-13 23:49:04 / 2024-01-13 23:59:23 / 10

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