by Dr David Tinworth & Sue Tinworth.
We are constantly being asked about Covid-19 vaccination, by people who are confused by misinformation. In this paper we respond to some common questions in the light of relevant medical information and simple ethical principles — hoping to promote clarity, freedom, constructive discussions, and mutual respect in a world fragile with loss.
We extend loving kindness to all who are seeking truth and all who have alternative views, sincerely respecting your freedom, as our fellow citizens, to discern wisely and decide with integrity what is life-giving for you, your family and your community.
Covid-19 vaccination is a matter of life and death
The Covid-19 vaccines available to us in Australia are safe and effective. We now have evidence that when you are vaccinated, you are unlikely to get sick with the virus, or die or spread it to others. Covid-19 vaccination will directly save the life of billions of people. We will not optimise life and freedom on our planet in this generation without Covid-19 vaccination.
Hand hygiene, social distancing, masks and Covid-19 testing have proven to be effective tools in universal disease prevention. Alongside these tools, Covid-19 vaccination will enable communities to operate freely and safely.
Australia has had success in keeping our Covid-19 contagion and death levels extraordinarily low! Australians are stoic at working together to keep others safe. We are prepared to sacrifice individual comfort and freedom “to do our bit for the greater good.”
We are grateful that Covid-19 did not spread through remote Indigenous communities in Australia and across the South Pacific, because it would be disastrous to vulnerable people who have co-morbidity risk.
Although we don’t currently have community transmission within Australia, vaccination is crucial to our ongoing protection and to opening our international borders to bring loved ones home and reconnect with the rest of the world.
Covid-19 vaccination: the need for truth
Unsubstantiated claims and misinformation about Covid-19 vaccination have broken down mutual understanding, trust, cooperation, consensus decision-making and collaboration. This has polarised people and delayed Covid-19 prevention and treatment.
“A little knowledge is dangerous”, and people have found it hard to discern reliable information. Social media hasn’t helped, because it does not give enough detail to help us make informed decisions. Social media filters the information we receive, so that we are isolated from a balance of views and reliable sources. Social media prompts people to ‘like’ certain views and can promote division, offence, disdain and derision toward people who think differently.
Myths about Covid-19 vaccine deceive people into putting their lives and our freedoms at risk. The following links debunk lies about DNA, infertility, sterilisation and tracking devices:
- “Microchips and mandatory shots: Don’t fall for these coronavirus vaccine myths”
- “Will an mRNA vaccine alter my DNA?”
- “No, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t cause infertility in women”
- “No evidence that COVID-19 vaccine results in sterilization”
- “Dose Of Truth: Is The Vaccine Being Used For Sterilization Purposes?”
- “No, COVID-19 vaccine patients are not being injected with a microchip”
- “Fact check: RFID microchips will not be injected with the COVID-19 vaccine, altered video features Bill and Melinda Gates and Jack Ma”
False information and discrimination has resulted in disadvantage, and even greater contagion and death outcomes, for vulnerable people — those who are elderly, poor, and who do not speak English or have citizenship protection.
Political derision and contempt stirred by lobby groups and political parties directly inhibited some government’s coordinated responses to Covid-19 prevention and treatment — causing horrific contagion and death rates in these nations and undermining Covid-19 vaccination.
We can each make a difference by seeking truth, passing on reliable information, respecting people who hold different opinions, keeping communication open and building trust.
Covid-19 Vaccination: 8 questions people ask us
1. Is the Coronavirus real?
Yes, people are still asking this. Coronavirus is one of the respiratory viruses that have routinely affected humans. SARS and MERS were Coronaviruses of heightened pathogenicity. The particular strain known as Covid-19 is far more infectious and has greater clinical effects on the respiratory and other organs in the body.
With the new molecular tools that we have today, medical scientists can completely sequence the genome of these viruses which allows us to identify changes in the virus, identify which person the virus has been contracted from. Genome sequencing assists with identifying where Covid-19 originated from, and whether a virus has been manipulated, artificially. This is how we know Covid-19 arose by natural re-combinations.
2. Does Covid-19 vaccination work?
Vaccination provides a higher level of protection than a natural infection. Surviving Covid-19 will not necessarily protect you from all variants of this virus. Data from nations that are advanced in vaccination campaigns report very, very good news.
3. Will the Covid-19 vaccination hurt me or my family?
Fortunately, the Covid-19 vaccination has now been tested on hundreds of millions of people, so we know immediate effects are not a problem.
There are miniscule numbers of people who do react to vaccination. Mostly these reactions are very temporary — as with other flu or vaccine shots, but a few people are susceptible to more serious reactions.
If you have real concerns for the safety of your family, book a long consultation with a physician and ask them to explain this to you and seek their recommendation.
Global follow-up of adverse reactions enables us to accurately examine patterns.
The only way to accurately analyse the correlation between vaccinated people and mortality is via Pharmacovigilance process embedded in the Pharmaceutical regulatory agencies such as FDA Food & Drug Administration (USA), EMA European Medicine Authority & TGA (Australia). These authorities thoroughly analyse all adverse events to determine if any drug is the causation of the mortality. All adverse events, globally, will be available for all to see on the Australian TGA Therapeutic Good Authority website. Updated Australian reports can be found here.
The official U.S. VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Reporting System) is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). VAERS operates a search engine known as CDC Wonder System. which reports adverse events from vaccination.
Readers can misinterpret published reports, as the VAERS Disclaimer warns us.
“Disclaimer: VAERS accepts reports of adverse events and reactions that occur following vaccination. Healthcare providers, vaccine manufacturers, and the public can submit reports to VAERS. While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Most reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind.
The strengths of VAERS are that it is national in scope and can quickly provide an early warning of a safety problem with a vaccine. As part of CDC and FDA’s multi-system approach to post-licensure vaccine safety monitoring, VAERS is designed to rapidly detect unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse events, also known as “safety signals.” If a safety signal is found in VAERS, further studies can be done in safety systems such as the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) or the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project. These systems do not have the same limitations as VAERS, and can better assess health risks and possible connections between adverse events and a vaccine.
Key considerations and limitations of VAERS data:
- Vaccine providers are encouraged to report any clinically significant health problem following vaccination to VAERS, whether or not they believe the vaccine was the cause.
Reports may include incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental and unverified information.
The number of reports alone cannot be interpreted or used to reach conclusions about the existence, severity, frequency, or rates of problems associated with vaccines.
VAERS data are limited to vaccine adverse event reports received between 1990 and the most recent date for which data are available.
VAERS data do not represent all known safety information for a vaccine and should be interpreted in the context of other scientific information.”
Adverse Reactions are reported from VAERS data after intense review — as illustrated in this paper: Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination 1 March 2021
“To date, VAERS has not detected patterns in cause of death that would indicate a safety problem with COVID-19 vaccines.” Over 76 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 1, 2021.
During this time, VAERS received 1,381 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. CDC and FDA physicians review each case report of death as soon as notified and CDC requests medical records to further assess reports. A review of available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records revealed no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths.”
A media report: Fact check: No links found between vaccination and deaths.
Confusion was caused by initial reports of death among vulnerable people in Norway when causation was assumed without clinical review.
“There are two ways to be fooled.
Once is by believe what isn’t not true;
The other is to refuse to accept what is true.”
— Soren Kierkegaard
Misleading Claims about Covid-19 Vaccination Deaths
Grave confusion is being spread by people who believe there is a death rate of 5.02% from Covid-19 vaccination. The quoted figures are misleading because MedAlert publishes raw untested data as if it is a reliable source of fact, failing to use the same safeguards that CDC VAERS applies.
The MedAlerts website claims:
“MedAlerts offers an alternative to the official VAERS search engine, CDC Wonder. Both are built from the government’s raw data, but MedAlerts has a better user interface, more powerful search capabilities, and more extensive reporting, making it the best VAERS search facility.”
The lack of professional integrity or even agenda behind this confusion is perhaps explained once we understand that the MedAlert is a site hosted by National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). This sounds official but NVIC,
founded under the name Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT) in 1982, is an American 501(c)(3) organization that has been widely criticized as a leading source of fearmongering and misinformation about vaccines. While NVIC describes itself as the “oldest and largest consumer led organization advocating for the institution of vaccine safety and informed consent protections”, it promotes false and misleading information including the discredited claim that vaccines cause autism, and its campaigns portray vaccination as risky, encouraging people to consider “alternatives.”
Read the whole article here.
4. How did they develop the Covid-19 vaccines so fast? Are they adequately tested?
All the safety and efficacy studies that would normally be carried out on a new vaccine were applied to vaccines developed in the UK, EU, USA etc. The time taken for the development of the Covid-19 vaccines was sped up by a massive application of scientific resources, assisted by regulatory bodies who assessed the data from sequential stages as it came to hand during the development process, rather than waiting for all the data to be completed.
Some vaccines were rushed out with less testing than normal: e.g. Russian (Sputnik 5) and Chinese vaccines (Sinovac Biotech) so there should be some caution until they publish data for our analysis.
Covid-19 vaccines were released in UK, EU and USA etc on emergency authorisation to reduce approval time. Australia took longer to release the vaccine because our need was less urgent, and the Australian regulator (TGA: Therapeutic Goods Authority) could approve the use of the vaccine under normal and complete regulation processes — with the exception of studies on the duration of immunity. The duration of immunity from these vaccines requires long term efficacy data that has to be generated in real time. It is likely we will need to continue vaccination for Covid-19 in the same way we maintain flu prevention to maintain immunity from emerging variants.
5. Should Covid-19 vaccination be compulsory? Collaboration and Control in Australia.
We do not believe vaccination should be compulsory. Covid-19 vaccination is not compulsory in Australia, but fear of compulsory vaccination has arisen because of deliberate misinformation campaigns.
Lives will be saved, and human dignity and freedoms preserved if we all listen well, discern truth and care for each other. We can communicate well and deliver services responsively if we appreciate other people’s fears, questions, value, contribution and specific needs.
A community has protection when more than 70% of local people have been vaccinated. Once a community reaches this safety point, known as ‘herd immunity’, the ability of the virus to spread in the community is severely limited and mutations of the virus (that occur with spread) are significantly reduced.
If healthy people are vaccinated, a community can reach herd immunity, which protects those who are unable to take vaccinations because of acute allergy, etc. This is an ethical responsibility to be carefully considered. If we reach local herd immunity, our families, communities and nations will be able to resume more normal freedoms, connections, economic security, democratic government function and travel.
If we do not reach herd immunity, the natural consequences will be continued forms of quarantine, e.g. restricting the mobility of every body or restricting the freedoms of those who are unvaccinated and able to spread Covid-19 and its variants. Quarantine for highly contagious diseases has a long history, as does vaccination required for safe travel, school and childcare.
- Australia’s notifiable diseases status, 2010: Annual report of the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System — Quarantinable diseases
- Immunisation for travel: What vaccines do you need for travel?
- Frequently asked questions: No jab, no play
- Primary school immunisation requirements
Collaboration and Control in Australia
We honour our Australia’s leaders who have generally been proactive in collaborative Covid-19 intervention planning protection and provision. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has communicated clearly with calmness, kindness, patience and generosity. Collaboration was evident in his formation of our Australian National Cabinet whose protocols have successfully protected the States that implemented them.
We are grateful that all our Australian State Premiers have made great effort to keep Australia safe. But control becomes oppressive when it is disproportional to risk. Some Premiers have exaggerated ‘risk’ and ‘fear’ to exercise quite arbitrary border control. The Victorian State government have mismanaged hotel quarantine and contact tracing, the inquiry into hotel quarantine, snap lockdowns at times when there was no community transmission (or very little) and unnecessarily prolonged hard lockdown of Melbourne for 111 days in 2020. Very seriously, they have extraordinary emergency laws and restrictions, COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 until 16 December 2021, even though Victoria has no Covid-19 transmission in the community.
6. Which vaccine is better?
The main thing to know is that all the vaccines being distributed in Australia are safe and highly effective – so any of them will give high levels of protection. There are no harmful components in any of these vaccines.
Data is being generated for specific age groups, pregnant women etc.
With time, we may have the luxury of selecting vaccines that offer particular benefits and applications for specific people groups. At this stage individuals are not able to choose a preferred vaccine and we do not know if choice will be available in the future.
During the urgent initial roll-out in 2020-21, nations have been grateful to get supply to meet demand of escalating daily contagion and death rates. Distribution and application procedures are a factor in which vaccine is best suited to their circumstances. Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at -70 degrees centigrade and transport to remote regions is not practical. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has advantages for remote distribution because it is refrigerated rather than frozen and provides adequate cover from a single dose.
7. What are the differences between Covid-19 vaccines? Which are available in Australia?
Covid-19 vaccines are essentially made in three different ways:
- mRNA vaccine Examples: Pfizer — which is available in Australia, Moderna
mRNA is a new vaccine technology that is proven to be safe and highly effective. mRNA is produced from a chemical process and is not produced in cells. mRNA activate only the humoral system (antibodies)
- Subunit vaccine: Example: Novavax — which is under review by TGA. Novavax is produced on insect cell line in-vitro. They use a spike protein to elicit immune reaction directly after delivery.
- Live vaccines: Examples: AstraZeneca — which is known as the Oxford vaccine and is available in Australia; Johnson & Johnson; Sputnik 5.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is what’s known as a biological. It needs the help of living organisms to be produced. Loads of pharmaceuticals are produced this way, including vaccines. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine relies on a type of cell called HEK 293. These cells were originally taken from a human embryo kidney — hence HEK — back in the 1970s. They grow well in labs and are a commonly used component in drug manufacturing. HEK cells don’t actually end up in the vaccine. Instead, they cultivate the crucial part of the vaccine — the adenovirus, which carries the spike protein DNA blueprint.”
~ quote and photo from the Australian CSL Lab in Melbourne.
We don’t yet have data on durational immunity, but Adenovirus & vectored vaccines are more likely to be effective at increasing body immunity because they activate the humoral system and the cell mediated immune systems within the recipient. This means they may be more helpful for older people, who have lower immune responses. They are also likely to provide broader and more durable immunity. Due to its low cost to manufacture and the ability of nation to produce it locally, AstraZeneca is will likely be the primary vaccine in many countries.
Table 1: Vaccines first to be used in Australia
|Vaccine||Type||What it does?||How is the vaccine made?|
|BioNTech/Pfizer||mRNA||Messenger RNA (mRNA) is what is normally generated in living organisms from DNA and the mRNA is a template for making proteins. Spike protein is encoded in this mRNA so once it gets into human cells they use it to make spike protein that is then recognised by immune system as foreign protein and the body generates antibodies.||Synthesis of ribonucleic acid in-vitro from DNA template by enzymes, purified RNA is then encapsulated in protective lipid coating (liposome). Cell-free system.
|Oxford/ AstraZeneca||adenovirus||This recombinant live but harmless (non-replicating) virus is modified to produce spike protein once it gets into the human body. The body then generates immune response against the spike protein.||Virus is grown in human kidney cell line in-vitro and then purified.|
Some other vaccines
|Novavax||Protein lipid nanoparticle||Subunit vaccine – spike protein to elicit immune reaction directly after delivery.||Protein is produced in insect cell line in-vitro. Spike protein is purified and assembled into nanoparticle to make it more effective.|
|Moderna||mRNA||Same as Pfizer mRNA||Same as Pfizer mRNA – synthesis of RNA|
|Sputnik V||adenovirus||Similar as Oxford/ AstraZeneca but uses two different strains of adenovirus for two doses||Similar as Oxford/ AstraZeneca|
|Sinovac||inactivated COVID-19 virus||whole inactivated (killed) virus elicits immunity but cannot replicate or do anything in cells||Made by growing COVID-19 virus in monkey kidney cells in fermenters and then inactivating (killing) the virus|
8. Do people have ethical concerns about live vaccines like AstraZeneca?
People have very different beliefs, concerns and preferences about lifestyle, diet and medical treatment. We believe it is important for us all to respect each other and to each have freedom to make choices about what is important and even vital to us.
- Some communities are grappling with concern because of their lifestyle beliefs — including Muslims; Orthodox Jews; Jehovah’s Witnesses (who do not have blood transfusions); and vegans (who do not have any animal products e.g. honey, dairy products, eggs, meat.)
Trauma and fear from the Holocaust make some Jewish people feel very vulnerable. Leaders are trying to overcome misinformation and clearly advocate for vaccination.
“Fears of a deadly Covid-19 vaccine – which have not basis in fact — were spread in part by a broadcast audio clip narrated in English by a radio host, Mordechai Sones, of Israel NewsTalk Radio.”
~ Orthodox Community Faces Down Misinformation in Vaccine Education Efforts
- Some people are concerned that live Covid-19 vaccines, such as AstraZeneca, are unethical because human fetal cells has been used in testing, development or production. Dr Lott, a virologist at QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, explains why fetal cells are used.
While living human cells can only divide around 50 times, those fetal cells have been genetically modified so they can divide an infinite number of times. “That’s why we can use the cells that we harvested [decades ago] today,” Dr Lott said. “They’re not the actual original cells, they’ve been immortalised and then propagated over the decades.” “This means we’ll never need to replace specimens used in development.”
“Just by analogy, buying ivory is illegal [because] if you create a market for ivory, then it creates the demand to kill more elephants,” Dr Lott said. “In this case, that’s not happening because these fetuses were aborted 60 years ago, 50 years ago, and using these immortalised tissues now is not going to create a need to go and get new ones.”
In fact, scientists would prefer to keep using HEK 293 cell lines — because they have been repeatedly tried and tested in a laboratory setting and found to be safe.”
High level purification remove any cell remains and the resulting vaccine is just purified virus. As Dr Lott says,
“Inherent in the whole process is stripping away the conditioned cell media, where the foetal cells are contained. That means a successful vaccine developed using foetal cells will have no remnants of those cells in the final product. You purify the vaccine away from the cells that they were grown in… There’s nothing left when it becomes the vaccine that gets delivered.”
Because there is no fetal cell in the final vaccine product, there is no genetically modified cell in the vaccine.
- Some people object to live vaccines because they associate the use of fetal cells with abortion.In 2017, the life ethics arm of the Catholic Church issued a statement that: Catholic parents could vaccinate their children with a “clear conscience” that “the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation in voluntary abortion”.
Earlier this year (2020) and in the context of the coronavirus vaccine race, John Di Camillo, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, confirmed: “One is allowed to make use of [vaccine derived from fetal tissue] where there’s a serious threat to the health or life of the individual, or of the greater population. This does not amount to a strict obligation to use it, but it certainly can be a legitimate choice in conscience if there’s that serious reason, and there’s no other reasonable alternative.” A 2005 “moral reflection” issued by Pope Benedict XVI specifically addressed the issue.
People who hold life sacred do not minimise the donation of human cells. Some may see this kind of donation as ethically similar to a kidney donation from a deceased person. Through this process, life is given to someone else — in this case protecting billions of people.
Is Covid-19 vaccination the ethical choice for you?
There are alternate routes that are right for different people. We respect your freedom to listen to your heart, and to others, as you decide how to best treasure the sacredness of life and how to nurture your well-being and that of your families and your communities.
The article: COVID-19 Vaccines: Bridging Religious Divides, Engaging Religious Support concludes,
“For the sake of each and every one of us and above all for vulnerable people suffering acutely during this crisis, we must explore how to bridge the divides between those who fear and doubt vaccines and those who support this path to COVID-19 solutions.
To do this, theologians, scientists, and public health specialists need to join with political and community leaders in a thoughtful conversation that builds the needed trust and respect in carefully vetted vaccines when they become available.
There is no doubt that religious support can and will play a key role in this process. That’s a path to create the widespread trust we desperately and sorely need if we are to beat this horrible common threat.”
Standing together for justice: universal access to Covid-19 vaccination
We look forward to a time when things will be ‘normal’, but life can’t be normal without Covid-19 vaccination and a continuation of ‘new normal’ hygiene practices.
We too have been changed by this pandemic. Some people have become contemptuous and combative. But many people are motivated by their own losses, to bring about for justice for others.
During 2020-21, we’ve seen global momentum gathering, as people stand together for what is just and compassionate in their nation, and in our world.
- The successful management of rates of Covid-19 infection will improve aspects of well-being that have been neglected during the pandemic — general health, mental health, delayed surgeries.
- Covid-19 has highlighted discrimination — with higher death rates among the elderly; people with co-morbidities and those in unhygienic conditions and high density living. Proportionally, Covid-19 has killed more poor, black, coloured and immigrant people.
- Covid-19 is still acutely affecting those who are caught in stressful and unsafe circumstances — those dying unaided of Covid-19 and without access to vaccination; refugees trapped in long-term isolation; people caught in war and disasters zones.
- Covid-19 vaccination must be freely accessible for everyone everywhere or the virus will continue to circulate and mutate in the unvaccinated populations. We will not have world peace without this justice. To ensure this, we each face immediate choices of huge significance.
What the World Needs Now is Love
All people need hope, safety, and ways to contribute and live a full life.
Every person needs to be assured that they are valued and that they belong.
You may like to pause to cherish what is life-giving to you — and those you care about:
- Remember the joy of opening your arms, home, local schools and borders to connect again!
- Open your heart to pure love. Let love overcome your fear and saturate your life:
Love is large and incredibly patient.
Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.
It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.
Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance.
Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.
Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.
Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong.
Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.
Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving… Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten.
~ Paul, a Jewish Christian leader, wrote this in AD 55-57 to people in the city of Corinth, in Greece.
- Open your heart to sing: What the world needs now is love, sweet love.