It may seem strange to begin a blog with a picture of the 19th century country doctor Edward Jenner and a cartoon of the structure of the Corona virus Covid 19! Every day we are bombarded with statistics in the press and media of the prevalence of the Corona virus in the population in various parts of the UK and of the more sobering death rates caused by viral infection. Some of you may have listened to a recent BBC radio 4 program on the life of Edward Jenner who was an English country physician and was the first to observe that subjects inoculated with cowpox were less likely to succumb to the far more serious smallpox which caused major illness and often death. His observations led to the development of vaccination as a protection against viral illnesses. Jenner was a Christian and commented towards the end of his life that:
“I am not surprised that men are not grateful to me; but I wonder that they are not grateful to God for the good which He has made me the instrument of conveying to my fellow creatures”.
Today we not only have to give thanks for Jenner’s pioneering work but also to the immunologists and molecular biologists who have identified the structure of the Corona virus (see the cartoon above as portrayed in the Lancet) so that a vaccine can be engineered and targeted against certain components of the virus that facilitate its entrance into human cells and its ability to replicate and multiply. Hopefully by this time next year the population will have been vaccinated with the new vaccines soon to be available and the pandemic will be over!
However, the new vaccines come at a significant cost and the wealthy nations have already bought up large stocks for their own populations which begs the question as to how the poorer nations will get a sufficient supply of vaccine for their own, often more vulnerable, inhabitants. As I write this blog, the UK government has just announced a huge increase in expenditure on military hardware which almost certainly will lead to a decrease in the budget for overseas aid and development.
What should our Christian response be to all of this? We need to confront our politicians with the Micah challenge and lobby for an increase in the UK budget for overseas aid so that all may benefit from the development of the new vaccines.
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you,
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”