In his first Christian publication interview since announcing his retirement last month, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins offered a glimpse into what it’s like handling COVID-19 and maintaining his beliefs as a committed Christian.
Collins stressed that the road to managing the pandemic has been a difficult one as parents across the nation grapple with the decision of whether they should vaccinate their children.
“We all want to be sure we're not doing anything to put our kids in danger, but of course, COVID is putting them in danger,” he told The Christian Post in a video interview.
“All the pediatric ICUs in the country right now are full of kids with COVID, and we've lost more than 500 children to COVID. So it's not something to shrug off, but you don't want the vaccine to be dangerous. So there again, what's the truth? What's the data? I have not seen the full data set that will be discussed next Tuesday [Oct. 26] in a public meeting by the FDA's advisory committee. And that's where all of that will be out there.”
Collins said that, for him, the truth and data are paramount when evaluating what’s effective when dealing with COVID-19, especially for children.
“I think you've got to trust the experts here, these people who are doing this evaluation,” he said. “[A]nd they’re not government employees. They're basically experts, mostly from academic institutions, who are volunteering their time. And they have nothing to gain here by saying if something's good or not. They don't work for the companies. If they come through by November 3rd or 4th saying, ‘Yes, this is safe and effective,’ you’ve got to make that decision yourself. But again, the data is there. It's not like somebody’s just telling you, ‘trust me because I said so.’ It’s because we are trying to be as transparent as we can.”
Collins has overseen the NIH since President Obama’s presidency in 2009, when he was appointed head of the agency. During that time, a lot has changed. Living out his faith as a committed Christian in the public arena and tackling the issues of abortion and fetal tissue research has been challenging.
“When you get into the details of a particular issue, it often turns out that the conflict that people would assume to be insurmountable can be put into a place where it makes sense; both as a person of faith who believes in the sanctity of human life and the person of science who's trying to come up with ways that science can save lives,” Collins said of fetal tissue research. “Human fetal tissue is just one of those examples.”
Collins told CP that this is not an easy conversation for people to have.
He believes people should “recognize, after all, that people have elective terminations of pregnancy every day, and those materials are being discarded.”
“Suppose it was possible on a rare instance for something that's about to be discarded with full consent after the decision by the mother to be used to develop something that might save somebody's life,” the 71-year-old geneticist reasoned.
“In that case, I think even God could look at that and go, ‘OK, it's not the thing that I would have wanted to see happening. Still, as an ethical choice between discarding or using for some benevolent purpose, maybe that's defensible.’ Now that will make some people uneasy.”
For Collins, his faith seems to allow him to go down the uncomfortable road.
“I get up every morning at 5 a.m. and I try to get my day started right with prayer and reading Scripture,” he said. “I seek to try to get the guidance. But God doesn’t audibly speak to me. I always sort of hoped that would happen.”
In an extensive interview, Collins talked about his faith, how he’s managed the world of COVID and science as he crusades in helping evangelicals understand the truth in an age of misinformation.