Dominican priest, microbiologist affirms moral liceity of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine Credit Seasontime  Shutterstock Vaccine. | Seasontime / Shutterstock.

A Dominican priest and biology professor has on social media encouraged people to receive a coronavirus vaccine, emphasizing his trust in modern medicine and expertise in biology.

Father Nicanor Austriaco, a Catholic author and professor of biology for Providence College in Rhode Island, issued a post on Facebook Jan. 10 stressing his belief in the COVID-19 vaccine and its benefit to society.

"To be clear, as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available for which I am eligible, whether in the USA or here in the Philippines, I intend to be vaccinated with it. Also, as soon as a vaccine becomes available for my mother here in the Philippines, I will encourage her to be vaccinated with it," he said.

He said a COVID-19 vaccine will help save lives as well as slow social disruptions and lockdowns, which will help society return to a level of normalcy.

In regard to concerns about the vaccination and its quick development, he said the vaccines were developed in record time because scientists had unlimited funding by "desperate governments" who are seeking to resolve a global pandemic and its negative effect on every country's economy.

Austriaco said tens of thousands of people have already gone through clinical trials and pointed to a brief history of coronavirus and vaccine research. He said mRNA vaccines, which are being used to treat this virus, were founded over 50 years ago, and RNA viruses, including the coronavirus subclass, have been studied for decades.

"I trust the scientific process that has gone into the development and testing of these vaccines," he said.

"These vaccines rely on decades of research. It is not like scientists just woke up one morning at the beginning of the pandemic and started from scratch."

The priest also addressed several possible concerns, such as minor side effects, major allergic reactions, medical rumors, and spiritual apprehensions.

He said the vaccine has minor side effects like a slight fever and a feeling of exhaustion, but noted that these are all signs that the process is working and the vaccine is jumpstarting the immune system.

"As a Christian, I am taught that a broken world can only be redeemed by sacrifice. This is the meaning of the Cross. In my view, the few days of discomfort and downright crappiness that I expect to experience after each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be my contribution to the sacrifice that heals the world (cf. Col 1:24)."

He conceded that major allergic reactions are possible and likely for a small group of individuals. He said, out of 1,893,360 vaccinations, 21 cases of severe allergic responses were recorded during the first two weeks of the U.S. vaccine campaign. He said all of the individuals with severe side effects already suffered from a history of bad allergic reactions. He further added that an EpiPen may be used to resolve these issues.

He addressed numerous rumors about the vaccine, such as false connections to infertility, death, and alterations in an individual's DNA. While people have died after receiving the vaccine, he said, there is no evidence that the vaccination is the cause of the death. He said claims that the vaccine causes infertility or changes DNA is also unreasonable and unsupported by science.

The priest also commented on the moral concerns behind the vaccine. He said some COVID-19 vaccines were manufactured by fetal cell lines derived from a decades-old abortion. He pointed to the Church's response and his own personal choice.

"As a priest, I know that different people have different thresholds of sensitivity to evil. Some feel evil exquisitely. Others not so much. We should therefore expect different people to reach different moral conclusions that could even be opposed to each other while both remaining virtuous responses," he said.

"Personally, I will choose to avoid the vaccines made with these cell lines. However, as the Vatican itself has noted, it is not immoral to avail oneself of these morally controversial vaccines, especially if no other options are available."

Austriaco expressed gratitude for the success the vaccine has so far seen, noting that it has been a surprising gift from God.

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"In the end, I believe that the unprecedented, and really, unexpected, successes we have witnessed in the production of these vaccines are a blessing from the Lord. If you had told me back during the first lockdown that we would have a handful of safe and efficacious vaccines ready to go within the first year of the pandemic, I would have shaken my head in disbelief," he said.

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