Living as faithful Christians in the world means not only understanding the Bible, but also understanding the world through the lens of the Bible and thinking wisely about the world that God has made and in which God has put us. In this episode of Thinking Theology we're looking at the Covid vaccine and some of the ethical questions that people have around it. Do vaccines work? Do we need them? Can they cause autism? And is there any truth the claim that vaccines uses fetal tissue in their development or production? To answer those questions we're speaking with our first ever guest on Thinking Theology, my sister, Associate Professor Dr Elissa Deenick, who is a research immunologist with the University of New South Wales and the Garvan Institute.
You can find out more about Vaccines and the use of fetal cells here:
Or about my guest Elissa Deenick here:
You can find out more about Vaccines and the use of fetal cells here:
Or about my guest Elissa Deenick here:
(the following transcript was automatically generated from a transcription service and may contain errors)
Karl Deenick (00:00):
(the following transcript was automatically generated from a transcription service and may contain errors)
Karl Deenick (00:00):
Living as faithful Christians in the world means not only understanding the Bible, but also understanding the world through the lens of the Bible and thinking wisely about the world that God has made and in which God has put us. And so here on Thinking Theology. We want to think not just about classical theological topics, but also bring theology and biblical wisdom to bear on important topics and issues in the world around us. And one of the most important topics and issues from this year has been COVID-19 and the potentially forthcoming COVID vaccine. Some people have significant reservations about vaccines, and it can be hard to know what's right. And what isn't. So today we're thinking about COVID-19 and vaccines, and we're thinking about those things in the light of the Bible. And to do that, we're speaking with our first ever guest on Thinking Theology. My sister Associate Professor Dr Elissa Deenick, who is a research immunologist with the University of N ew South Wales and the Garvan Institute in Sydney.
Karl Deenick (01:11):
Hi, my name's Karl Deenick. I'm a pastor theologian writer and Bible college lecturer. Welcome to Thinking Theology, a podcast where we think about theology, the Bible and the Christian life, not just for the sake of it, but so we can love God more with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Karl Deenick (01:32):
Elissa, thanks for joining us on Thinking Theology. You're a research immunologist now. I didn't know what that meant until you started doing it. So I'm guessing lots of other people don't know what that means. What is that? What is an immunologist? What's a research immunologist.
Elissa Deenick (01:57):
Yeah. So an immunologist is someone who studies the immune system and the immune system is the part of your body that fights off infection be that viruses or bacteria or fungus or all those things that can make you sick. So as a research immunologist, I'm interested in finding out new things about how the immune system works. And in particular, for me I study people who have problems with their immune system, which means that they can't fight off infection properly. So they keep getting really severe or constant infections.
Karl Deenick (02:37):
So there are people whose immune systems do a good job at fighting infection you're saying, and then other people who, for some reason, that doesn't work so well.
Elissa Deenick (02:45):
Yeah, that's true. So for most of us, we think about, you know, we barely even noticed the constant, bacteria and viruses and fungi that are in the environment around us, but there are people who have almost no immune system or just parts of their immune system that are defective. And that means that they're unable to fight these infections off. And that might mean that they're constantly in hospital or they're constantly on drugs or for some of those people actually they end up dying because they get such severe infections.
Karl Deenick (03:24):
So is that a, is that a common thing? What, what causes those kinds of immune problems?
Elissa Deenick (03:32):
There are different levels of severity. So most of the ones that I study, these are people who have a genetic conditions, so problems with their DNA, which then impact the functioning of their immune system. And they're actually kind of over 400 different kind of gene defects that can have that lead to problems with your immune system. But many of them are incredibly rare, like three or four people in the world. Whereas some of them are a much more common. And then of course there are other people who have immune defects because they're on drugs that suppress their immune system. So people who have had organ transplants, so you have to suppress the immune system so your immune system doesn't reject that new organ or people who, for example, have auto immune diseases who are on drugs to kind of suppress their immune system attacking their body. And that means that those people too, can't infect fight infection very well either.
Karl Deenick (04:31):
Yeah. Right. So, I mean, obviously there's been a lot of talk about vaccines at the moment and that's why we've got you on thinking theology — because of COVID and the vaccine rates that's going on with COVID. I mean, I guess many of us probably have no idea about how vaccines work. We've seen, you know, videos and whatever media clips on the news maybe, but how do vaccines work? And, kind of just at the layman level.
Elissa Deenick (05:00):
Yeah. So vaccines are really about teaching your immune system to recognize a particular virus or bacteria. So because our immune system has this really tricky job where it has to be able to fight off like hundreds and thousands of different bacteria or viruses that you might come into contact with in your life. So the way it does this is by kind of randomly developing these different immune cells, which all of them kind of fight, are ready, kind of sitting there ready to fight off a particular infection. But that means when any particular infection comes along, you've got to find the cell. That's good for finding that infection. And you've got to grow up enough of those cells so that they can fight off the infection that's there. So basically what a vaccine does is it comes along and it kind of activates and expands those cells which are good for fighting off infection, so that you've got lots of them kind of sitting there already primed and ready to go. So that now when you encounter that infection, you've got way more kind of fighters to fight off that infection. So you can kind of do it much more quickly so that you never have to get sick.
Karl Deenick (06:28):
So is it kind of like, I don't know, searching, searching your computer for a file. And then once you found that you suddenly print off like a whole lot of copies or something like that, is that sort of what it's like?
Elissa Deenick (06:38):
Yeah. It's like that. So particularly vaccines, actually work by getting your body to generate something which you may have heard of because people have been talking about them quite a lot called antibodies. And these are these little Y shaped molecules, which kind of are able to grab onto a virus or bacteria, but they're all different. So they all grab onto different bacteria or viruses. So part of what when you get that vaccine and you activate your immune cells is that you pump out a whole lot of these little Y shaped antibodies, which are then floating around your blood. And so as soon as that virus or that bacteria comes into your body, they, they grab onto that and kind of coat the virus or the bacteria and kind of stop it from doing any damage. So yeah, like in the way you print off lots of pages, you print off lots of these antibodies and they're circulating all around your body.
Karl Deenick (07:36):
So how is it different then to have a vaccine than it is to not have a vaccine? Like, you know, is your body doing anything different in terms of fighting off the infection? Is it just, just that it knows ahead of time, what it's looking for? Is that the difference?
Elissa Deenick (07:53):
Yeah, the difference is that really you've got, you've got a big headstart. So you can imagine if you have a virus that comes in and you might not get exposed to many, many kind of viruses, you know, virus particles, when someone costs on you, but those will start replicating. And, you know, you can go from having, you know, 10 20 to having hundreds of thousands in a really short time. Now you can imagine that if you have never seen it before, and you've only got a few cells to fight it and it takes a while for them to find it. And then they've got to, it's like a race where one's replicating and the other one's kind of, and you've got to try and make sure that you're making a response faster than the virus is replicating. So actually, if you give your body a head start and you have, you know, way more cells, you have these antibodies already, then the virus doesn't have a chance to kind of build up before you can control it.
Elissa Deenick (08:57):
And that's particularly important, you know? So if you get just a normal cold it's not such a problem, if the virus kind of starts winning in the race, cause it's not going to do too much damage to your body before your immune system kicks in. But if you have a virus that has the potential to really hurt your body, then you actually want to shut that down and stop it as soon as possible. And actually best case scenario, what you want to actually do is actually completely prevented from actually ever establishing itself in your body. So viruses actually unlike bacteria, which can kind of grow in their own. So, you know, you can have bacteria growing on a surface, a virus actually needs to get inside a cell to actually start. And then it takes over the cell and kind of turns that cell into a factory for producing more copies of the virus. So if you have like a really good vaccine, actually what it does is produces so many of those little Y shaped antibodies that they can coat the virus before the virus can even actually get inside the cell and start producing more copies of it. And that's like the best case scenario for blocking infection that you get it before it even gets into the cells of the body.
Karl Deenick (10:14):
So, so you're saying that not all vaccines do that then like some, some vaccines are more effective and some vaccines are less effective. Is that right?
Elissa Deenick (10:26):
Yeah that's kind of true. But it also depends. Immunology is complex. It also depends where the virus came in. So I've talked to before about how those antibodies can travel around the body and the blood, and they are at really high levels in the blood. They're not as at higher levels in your nose and in your lungs. So to get into your nose and your lungs they've kind of got to get from the blood and then get across the skin cells kind of into the, into those things. So if you have high levels in the blood, the levels in your nose and in your lungs are going to be a bit lower. So if you don't get high enough levels getting out until you nose, there may not be high enough levels kind of in your nose when the virus hits there to completely coat the virus and stop it infecting.
Elissa Deenick (11:17):
So that's why it's sometimes harder to get a good vaccine to respiratory infections because of the way it comes in. So this has come up in terms of when we've been talking about the coronavirus vaccine. So you would have heard the news about the three vaccines that have just come out, which have kind of 70 to 95% effectiveness, but that's effectiveness at stopping the symptoms of the disease. So in these vaccine trials, they haven't actually yet tested and reported whether those people may be were infected with the virus. And, but the antibodies like stopped it from getting so bad that you developed symptoms. So we don't know whether it's completely stopped the virus getting into the body or whether it's just kind of stopped it early enough before you really got sick.
Karl Deenick (12:15):
And so what's the what's the ramifications of that. If, it, it doesn't stop, you know, the virus completely but only kind of dampens down the symptoms and so on.
Elissa Deenick (12:27):
Well, the good thing is if it stops the symptoms, then hopefully it's going to stop people getting so sick that they die, which is clearly the problem with any virus. You don't want people to die or to get these kind of long-term effects that you may have heard of where people kind of are sick for a long time after they've had the virus. So it's good in that sense. If you're still getting infected though, but just not getting symptoms, the problem with that is that you could potentially still pass it on to someone else. So if I'm vaccinated, I might get the virus, I don't get any symptoms, but if I then hang out with you and you're not vaccinated, I could still pass the virus on to you and you could get sick because you haven't had the vaccine and you don't have the protection.
Elissa Deenick (13:21):
So it means you, you would have heard, you know, probably a lot of talk this year about herd immunity. And that's this concept where if you have enough people who have been vaccinated and vaccinated to the point that they can't be infected, then they can no longer pass it on to other people. And so if like you have a really good vaccine where you can't get infected, you can't pass it on. Then actually, even if you're not vaccinated, then you're protected because I'll never get infected and I'll never have the virus to pass it onto you. Whereas if you only have a vaccine that protects from symptoms, then everybody needs to be vaccinated to be protected. And that's a problem because as we talked about earlier, there are some people who have bad immune systems, so will never make a good response to a vaccine. And so those people are still vulnerable in that case.
Karl Deenick (14:23):
Yeah. Right. Like you said, immunology clearly is complex. So there's a number of different vaccines that are going around at the moment that are sort of, or in contention that people are talking about. Is there much difference between them, like, will some be better than others, do you think in, in some of the ways that you've just sort of highlighted,
Elissa Deenick (14:48):
It's hard to know at the, it looks like other two RNA [vaccines] that have been reported to have kind of effectiveness in kind of the 90% range are a little bit better than the Oxford vaccine, which is a vaccine that uses a viral vector. But really we probably need to say more of those results to truly know, but there are other things about those vaccines that make them kind of good or bad in terms of, for example, the Oxford vaccine is cheaper to make and it doesn't need to be kept as cold. So that's easier to distribute to lots of people. And in the same way, kind of the, you may have heard of the Queensland university vaccine, which actually isn't as far through trials, but which is kind of a different kind of vaccine again. And which is again, is, is doesn't require the same cold storage is easier to produce. And so it can be distributed more easily, but into, in terms of how effective they are in terms of producing a good antibody response and protecting you from disease, we're still kind of waiting on the results of the trials to really know the answers to that.
Karl Deenick (16:12):
So, I mean, I guess one of the questions maybe that some people have, I don't know, is do we really need a vaccine? I mean, won't our bodies and many people's bodies in the end, just work out how to defeat it itself and we'll get to that level of herd immunity without vaccination.
Elissa Deenick (16:34):
Yeah. Well, that's true. If you're willing to let a lot of people die or get really sick in the meantime. You know, we live in a time where actually, we're not very used to people dying from infectious disease because we have vaccines and we have antibiotics, but it wasn't that long ago in developed countries, and even now, still in developing countries where actually a huge number of people would die. So, you know, people would have six, seven children and only one would survive into adulthood because as much as our immune system is pretty good, it can fight off things, it doesn't always win that race between the growth of the virus or the bacteria and our immune response. And sometimes our body is just overwhelmed. So kind of looking at the Corona virus, you know, kind of the estimates are, I think about 1% of people who get it will die.
Elissa Deenick (17:43):
And that of course depends on how old you are. But that's an awful lot of people to die on the way to getting herd immunity. And the problem is not just the people who die, but viruses are tricky little things, and they have unexpected consequences on the body. So, you know, there's a lot of data coming out that the Corona virus, you know, can cause brain damage, heart damage, clotting problems, you know, it can just have a whole lot of effects that we don't even know about now. So, you really don't want to take the risk of seeing if your immune system wins in the race to fight it off because the consequences of it, if it doesn't, are just not worth it.
Karl Deenick (18:36):
Yeah. It's interesting what you say too, about how we are just so used to living in a world where people, you know, outlive childhood, if you like. I often think of the quite well-known puritan theologian John Owen, I think every single one of his children died. And I think his first wife as well. So we're talking in the 1700s or something there. And that's just something that we're not familiar with any more. It does show you something about the medical advances that we've clearly experienced over the last century, or so at least. I mean, I guess at a theological level, and this is where we start to get into the thinking theology kind of thing, you know, some people might say, well, but didn't God create us with bodies, you know, to fight off infection.
Elissa Deenick (19:26):
Yeah. And, and that's true. You know, we do have immune segment fights infection. But we've got to remember the fall. That when, you know, Adam and Eve sinned, death came into the world and with that presumably an ineffective immune system as well. So yeah, I've also heard people say, surely we don't need vaccines because you know, our immune system should be able to fight it off, because God would have created us with a good body. But, you know, we die because sin came into the world. Our immune system has problems because of that as well. But, you know, some people might say, you know, didn't God create us, you know, to live. Surely you shouldn't need to have your appendix taken out because, you know, didn't God create you to survive okay with an appendix. But, you know, I had appendicitis, I had to take it out. This is part of the fall, part of the broken world, part of our broken bodies. But God in his mercy, I think has given us medical advances, scientific advances, which have allowed us to develop therapies that help to overcome some of those things.
Karl Deenick (20:52):
Yeah. I think you and I have talked about this at other times as well, that it's that idea of having a theology of creation without a theology of the fall, but God might a good world. Absolutely. Yeah. But it's a world which is marred by sin, marred by the consequences of sin and we have to hold those two things together.
Karl Deenick (21:11):
So, I mean, is there evidence that vaccines really do work? Do you think? From, you know, not just the COVID vaccine, but I guess throughout the history of the world? Is there evidence that vaccines have an efficacy?
Elissa Deenick (21:31):
Yeah. There's endless, endless evidence. We've eradicated, smallpox due to vaccination. I mean, that's astounding that this disease that used to ravage the world has now been eliminated except for a few small stocks that are found, you know, in, in labs in the world. Because we vaccinated people, people couldn't become infected. And so then it died out. You know, you think about polio and kind of the number of people that kids, several generations ago, who were like, you know, hospitals full of kids, you know, in iron lungs. And yet now almost no one in the world has, you know, there are a few small outbreaks in the world, but generally speaking, we just don't see polio in the world. And that same story is seen over and over again. And I mean, the clinical trials that we've just had for Corona virus clearly show it that, you know, people who didn't have the vaccine, you know, a hundred or something, people got it. People who did have the vaccine only eight or nine, got it. Like this is the power of, you know, kind of teaching your immune system to react to these things so that when the infection comes along, you can fight it off and you just don't have to worry about it in the same way.
Karl Deenick (23:04):
Yeah. Yeah. So I guess pushing on into maybe some of the criticisms, if you like, that come up around vaccines and vaccination. I mean, some people, one of the, one of the classic kind of concerns, I suppose, that some people expressed is that there have been suggested links between vaccination and autism. Is there any truth to that claim? Where, where has that come from that idea?
Elissa Deenick (23:32):
Well, really this idea came from a paper that was published by a guy, Andrew Wakefield, many years ago, which where he, you know, did this study and he said that there was, you know, a link between autism and vaccines. But since then, that that study has been discredited. You know, he was shown to have kind of conflicts of interest in what he was doing and they didn't kind of carry out the study properly. And like, beyond that other people since then have like carried out much bigger studies, looking at whether vaccination increase the risk of autism and have shown that there's no evidence at all of an increased risk of autism from vaccination. But sadly one man's flawed study has kind of created this idea, which now continues on, even though that study has now been discredited.
Karl Deenick (24:39):
Why do you think that is, do you have any sense of, of why that is, why people still hang on to that, that one study when other studies later on have come on, come along and discredited it. I mean,
Elissa Deenick (24:53):
I think there are multiple things that play into it. I'm not an expert on kind of, you know, the sociology of these things, but I, I think, one, scientific papers are, are difficult to understand and interpret. You know, it, it actually requires a lot of study and expertise to fully understand it. Like I'm an immunologist, but even within the field of immunology, there are papers that I can read and I can kind of critique and really understand deeply. And there are other papers that I kind of understand, but actually I, even as an immunologist, if it's not my area of expertise in immunology, I find difficult to fully understand and critique. So if that's true of me kind of reviewing these papers, it's even more difficult, I think for the general public often to read a scientific paper and to understand what's a good credible paper and, and what's not.
Elissa Deenick (25:58):
So I think that's part of the problem people's ability to judge what is good evidence and what's not. I think there's also, I mean, having kind of an autistic child can, can be difficult. And I think people then want answers about kind of why this happened. And science doesn't actually have that many good answers yet of why one child is autistic and another isn't. And so then people are looking for answers and maybe they hold onto this as an answer because they don't have other kind of better answers. Yeah. And, you know, we could go into social media and, and kind of those platforms and how they kind of spread disinformation as well. But I think to some extent actually part of it is driven by people looking for answers and kind of hope, but not quite knowing where to look.
Karl Deenick (27:00):
Yeah. That's interesting looking for hope. That's so true. And I mean, I, I think we are taught to engage in the world, but like you say, a lot of things are just beyond us. You know, like, like you said, even some things in your field are beyond you and, and you see things on the internet and in a media article or on someone's blog post and it just seems so simple and so straightforward, but often it does require some kind of expertise to understand it and to be able to evaluate it. And I think to some degree of trust in people who are, who are able to do it, and to respect their expertise in it. I mean, in our society, I think at the moment we have kind of an erosion of trust, whether that's in governments or science or whatever it is. And so people are just very skeptical all round, I think, and that has implications then for things like this.
Elissa Deenick (27:56):
Yeah. I think that's true. I think we, we, we don't know anymore kind of who to look for for expertise and we can, you know, kind of convince ourselves that if I just do a bit of reading, like then, you know, I can judge it. But one of the interesting things about about research, and I've spent kind of 20 years in immunology research, is that actually the more you research, the more you realize how, how much we still don't understand actually. And I think that's true that the more, you know, about a subject, the more you kind of actually realize your limitations.
Karl Deenick (28:47):
Yeah, absolutely. I think people say that about PhDs, don't say that the end result of the PhD is just realizing how much you don't know.
Karl Deenick (28:53):
I guess another thing that's often mentioned in connection with vaccines which is maybe to some people even more disturbing is just that people often say that there is aborted fetuses are used in the production of vaccines. So is that true? What's the story behind that?
Elissa Deenick (29:19):
Yeah. This is based on a few cell lines that are routinely used in, in medical research. So, particularly the Oxford vaccine uses in its production, and some of the other vaccines used kind of in their development, a cell line, which is known as HEK293. And this is a cell line...
Karl Deenick (29:50):
To the cool people, right.
Elissa Deenick (29:52):
It's called HEK because it's human embryonic kidney cells. So this was a cell line that was actually developed more than 40 years ago before either you or I was born. So normally human cells and most, most cells can only divide a certain number of times before they kind of give up the ghost and they won't divide anymore. So people create what are called cell lines, and these are cells that they've kind of done something to so that they can keep dividing endlessly. So more than 40 years ago this cell line, there was a guy in the Netherlands who got some tissue from an aborted fetus. And actually, we don't know. So often when we hear the word aborted, we think of kind of, someone choose, chose to have an abortion though the term spontaneous abortion is another word for a miscarriage. So kind of in medical science terms, you might use the word aborted for either either a spontaneous abortion, i.e., miscarriage or, you know, an abortion by choice.
Elissa Deenick (31:15):
So someone got tissue from a fetus that was aborted and then took some of the cells from that. And they've now been, kind of, changed in a way that they've been growing and dividing in culture ever since. So people use this cell line in medical research because it's been around for so long and because we know how it operates. And as I said earlier, viruses can't grow unlike bacteria, which can grow on a surface, viruses can't grow on their own. They've got to be inside a cell and take over that cell and grow. So if you ever want to grow viruses, you need to have cells to grow them in. So this cell line has been used to grow viruses over the last 40 plus years. And, and then it's used in the production of these vaccines.
Karl Deenick (32:18):
So we don't, we don't know the circumstances in which the fetus was aborted, I take it. Like, we don't know whether it was a spontaneous...
Elissa Deenick (32:31):
Not as far as, as I'm aware. I think in the original paper that wasn't stated. Maybe if you went back to the guy who did it, he might be able to tell you. But, it's, it's not clear. And even, kind of, beyond that. You know, as Christians that makes us, if it, it was kind of an elective abortion, that makes I think many of us very uncomfortable. But I think the way that I've approached this issue is to think about the fact that this was a cell line that was produced many years ago. We're not entirely sure of the origin, but even if it did come from an, an elective abortion, it's not like the manufacturers of this virus or the, sorry, of these vaccines or the developers of these vaccines played any role in what happened 40 years ago.
Elissa Deenick (33:42):
And in the same way that you might say, you know, if someone was murdered, that's a terrible days deed, but we'd still want to use that person's organs, you know, for organ donation, if that was possible to save lives, I, I kind of feel, though I guess each Christian has to kind of work through this for themselves, that this cell line was created a long time ago. And it wasn't as if a child was aborted to make the cell line. It was just, you know, a cell line, that was produced as a secondary, you know, using what resulted from that. And so to use that now is not to contribute to any kind of crime or misdeed, but it is only to use what was previously generated and which now is able to do great good. And in some ways, I guess, kind of, kind of change what, you know, was a loss of life into something more positive.
Karl Deenick (34:58):
Yeah. That's really interesting that that comparison with a murder, I mean, obviously to murder someone in order to take their organs is just, you know, just an awful crime—heinous. But in the case where maybe that has happened and then to be able to take that evil act that somebody else has intended and purposed, and then to bring good out of that can actually be a positive thing. Like you say, good can come from that.
Karl Deenick (35:30):
There's was a good article recently on The Gospel Coalition by Joe Carter about that actually, about some of the complexities of this year, this issue that goes into a little bit more detail as well.
Karl Deenick (35:41):
So, I mean, it sounds to me the most important thing that you're saying is it's not as though in the production of vaccines that people are daily, you know, aborting new fetuses in order to create vaccines. You're saying that 40 years ago there was sales taken from a fetus in circumstances that we maybe don't really know about, good or evil, and now those cells are just replicating. And there's no, it's not really any longer the original, it's not the original fetal tissue, is it?
Elissa Deenick (36:21):
No. And I mean, you would almost certainly find those cells in almost every kind of research institute around the world. I mean, that's how widespread they are. And to some extent actually the cells keep getting used because actually they're already there and it means you don't have to create new cell lines from whatever source. Like you can use this well-defined, kind of well-tested source and, you know, no one, no one needs to think about ever making kind of that kind of thing again.
Karl Deenick (37:08):
So, the last question then, I guess, Elissa that we, well I have for you is, I mean, how do we as Christians think about this COVID vaccine then? I mean, it sounds like, I mean, I'm guessing that you're going to say we should go out and get it, is that what we should be thinking about it? And doing so as quickly as possible? Or, you know, should we be concerned maybe actually about how quickly governments are kind of speeding these things through regulation? Yeah. How do we think about that as Christians?
Elissa Deenick (37:40):
Yeah, look, I think, you know, one, we have to be thankful for the people who actually volunteered to be part of the trials that will, you know, allow these hopefully to come into production. You know, we, we often talk about the safety of vaccines and some people are concerned about that and certainly you don't want any vaccine to go into public distribution without being well tested. So in one sense, it's a beautiful sacrifice and service by the people who, you know, volunteered to be part of these trials before we had, you know, large scale evidence that they were safe because they saw that actually this was something that could benefit many people beyond them. Secondly, you know, you know, we want to wait and see the final results of the clinical trials that are coming through and really have the good evidence that they are both effective and safe.
Elissa Deenick (38:53):
But you know, if we have that kind of evidence, I think I would encourage everyone, unless, you know, you're one of those rare people who has kind of an underlying immune condition, to go and get it. Because, you know, I think there is, there, there is some fear kind of amongst people that, you know, there are potential side effects. But you've got to think about the tens of thousands of people that have already been involved in these trials, and as far as we know from the current results, and this will become more clear lately, later, sorry, there has been very few severe side effects. Like just things like, you know, a bit of fever, a bit of a sore arm, which is entirely what you expect if your immune system is activated. That's, you know, a fever is part of your immune system being activated. You compare that to the actual disease where you're getting 1% of people dying and even at younger ages, you're getting, you know, less people dying, but people with severe things. So I think you've got to, you know, think about actually kind of the numbers in terms of what we know about how bad the disease is and what we know about kind of the vaccine and its safety there.
Elissa Deenick (40:24):
But I would also encourage people to go and be vaccinated, particularly if we find out that these are, kind of vaccines that protect you from spreading the disease, because actually for this vaccine and kind of for any vaccine that has that effect, this is in a sense a service to those who have defective immune systems and can't make a response. Like if I can be vaccinated and stop myself from being someone who's a spreader then I can actually protect those who themselves can't make a good immune response and be kind of protected from that. So yeah, that would, that would be my advice.
Karl Deenick (41:12):
Well, there you go. That's all we should do. It's true though, isn't it, because, I mean, I think if some of the people of my church, I think of one particular person whose immune system was compromised because of cancer treatment, for instance, you know, and there are people like that who are terribly at risk, because, from virus because of that. So if we, as a, as a community, you can, can protect them by receiving the vaccine, well that's, that is a great thing, obviously then too. And like you say, the risk one in a hundred, 1% of people that, you know, dying from COVID, as opposed to very few side effects seems quite positive.
Elissa Deenick (41:58):
And I, I would just say as well that, you know, you talked about the, the short time to kind of development of these vaccines and that has caused people, I think, concerns about, did we have enough time to kind of, you know, work out the safety and that kind of thing. And certainly these current clinical trials are giving us insight into that as well. The other thing to remember is that, of course, as we've developed these vaccines, while the kind of particular vaccine that's developed against Coronavirus is, is new, a lot of the techniques that have been used to do that are themselves; have been around for longer. So, you know, the beauty of kind of vaccines is that you kind of, we have an idea as immunologists of like, these are the things we need to put into a vaccine to get a good immune response and produce those antibodies. And then to some extent we can swap in, okay, let's swap in a bit of the Coronavirus, let's swap in a bit of tetanus, you know, that kind of thing. It's not as if we start from complete scratch and have no idea about kind of the vaccines. There is a wealth of background knowledge that has led us to this point which has allowed us to then kind of produce these now.
Karl Deenick (43:34):
So it's kind of working off an existing basis of treatments and understanding, I guess. Yeah.
Elissa Deenick (43:39):
Karl Deenick (43:39):
Well, thanks, Elissa being part of Thinking Theology being my first ever guest. It's good to always invite family because they're probably less likely to say no. But thank you for sharing your expertise with us and your reflections as well on what is a topic that lots of people are thinking and talking about. Thanks for being with us.
Elissa Deenick (44:00):
Thanks for having me.