Spirituality: Leadership Vaccination Stance – The Ones For It

Background

I will like to post on Pastors that are actually encouraging their congregants to get vaccinated against COVID.

Spiritual Leaders & Messaging

Judaism

  1. Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom synagogue in Washington, DC
    • Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld enrolled in a clinical trial of the Moderna vaccine in 2020-July, he wanted to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
    • Herzfeld has since become a “poster child” for vaccination. His widely seen videos on TikTok show him getting his shot in July and then receiving a medical hero award this month for his advocacy. He has also persuaded at least one other rabbi in Maryland to join a clinical trial.
    • Ohev Sholom synagogue, which has 250 families in Washington, DC, and Maryland, is updating its members frequently about when the vaccine will be available. “We are calling seniors to encourage them to be vigilant and sign up for appointments as soon as the government announces they are open. I encourage anyone who is eligible to sign up and get the shot. If we’re going to defeat this virus, we need everyone’s help,” says Herzfeld.
    • His message to people who refuse to get vaccinated when it’s widely available is to stay home.
  2. Chaim Kanievsky, Gershon Edelstein, and Shalom Cohen
    • Other rabbis have echoed Herzfeld: Get vaccinated. Three of the most senior rabbis in ultra-Orthodox Judaism — Chaim Kanievsky, Gershon Edelstein, and Shalom Cohen — recommended recently that “anyone who has the option of getting the vaccine should get it.”
    • They argue the vaccines have been proved safe and were developed using accepted scientific methods. These comments are particularly important in ultra-Orthodox communities because the views of rabbinical leaders govern public attitudes.

Islam

  1. Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center in Richmond, VA
    • Imam Ammar Amonette says Muslim teaching supports vaccination
    • In case of an epidemic, you’re not allowed to refuse vaccination even if there’s a slight danger to you of a reaction. Although you may be able to refuse treatment when you’re ill, you can’t endanger others in the community. We have a religious duty and obligation to be vaccinated as long as competent science and medical authorities approve the vaccine.
    • Since the pandemic began, it’s been extremely important for us to educate our extremely diverse community that includes refugees and African Americans. We have a lot of people who have experienced oppression and discrimination. It’s not surprising that they are somewhat skeptical of authorities and may be prone to misinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories,” says Amonette.
    • He reassures people that Islam is not against vaccination even when ingredients come from pork. “Anything that saves lives takes precedence over food prohibitions. Protecting the health of the community takes precedence over some other details of the law.”
  2. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
    • Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri says a series of conspiracy theories circulating on social media is leading to vaccine hesitancy in Muslim populations, which goes against the tenets of Islam.
    • Saving lives is an act of worship,” he told Sky News in an exclusive interview.
    • At the start of the pandemic, Muslims around the world were among those at the forefront.  They placed their maximum efforts into saving lives, providing people with food and every kind of necessary support. In the same way, they should come forward now.
    • Canadian-based Shaykh Tahir seeks to reassure his three million followers on social media, in an effort to counter the spread of fake news about the COVID-19 vaccines.
    • Some people are saying that there is alcohol in it, or pork or other things forbidden (in Islam). Some say these vaccines may affect certain parts of the brain. What can I say? These are totally baseless claims.
    • This is a matter of medicinal development, of life, and it is just the same as when we take paracetamol, antibiotics, or aspirins despite their side effects.
    • Believing in the medical process is one of the basic teachings of Islam. Islam and the teachings of the Koran the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is focused on reason, intelligence, scientific research, and intellectual development.

Christianity – Catholic

  1. The Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
    • The Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently stated publicly that it’s morally acceptable to take the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines even if the vaccine’s research involved cell lines from aborted fetuses.
    • “In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines,” the bishops said in December.
    • The bishops went a step further and called taking the vaccine “an act of charity toward the other members of our community.”
 

Christianity – Orthodox & Protestant

  1. Father Paul Abernathy ( St. Moses the Black Orthodox church )
  2. Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory ( Archdiocese of Washington )
    • The hesitation is understandable
    • We need to move beyond the historic problems that are clear, and take advantage of the medical discoveries and the scientific aids that are available. History is real, but so is the possibility of a future without this disease.
  3. Pastor John Hagee
    • Pastor John Hagee, who was infected with the coronavirus last year, told his Cornerstone megachurch as he was recovering that “we have a vaccine; the name is Jesus Christ, the son of the living God.”
    • Hagee Ministries later clarified Hagee’s comments, saying in a statement to ABC News that the pastor’s words were taken out of context.
    • “Pastor Hagee himself is taking the vaccine,” said Hagee Ministries spokesperson Ari Morgenstern. “Pastor Hagee believes in both the power of prayer and modern medicine. These are not mutually exclusive.
  4. Franklin Graham ( President and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse & Son of Rev. Billy Graham )
    • I would hope that the pastors in the pulpit would tell people how they can be saved from God’s judgment
    • I think for a pastor to tell someone not to take the vaccine is problematic because what would happen if that person got coronavirus and died?”
    • Billy Graham, who many evangelical leaders continue to admire years after his death, was born at the height of the 1918 flu pandemic, which claimed several members of the Graham family.
    • “Anytime there was a vaccine or something that could help protect you, he was an advocate for, he took it,” said his son Franklin Graham. “I think if there were vaccines available in the time of Christ, Jesus would have made reference to them and used them.”
  5. Danny Reeves ( First Baptist Corsicana, North Central Texas )
    • “I was falsely and erroneously overconfident,” Reeves told NPR’s Debbie Elliott on Morning Edition.
    • Reeves says he isn’t against vaccines, and he encouraged certain people in his community — mostly older adults — to get vaccinated before he contracted the coronavirus. But he thought since he’s in his 40s and generally healthy, getting the virus wouldn’t be a big deal.
    • Of his first service back, Reeves says, “We’re going to praise God together for his rescue. I’m going to lay out lessons that I’ve learned. … And certainly I’m going to talk straight to our people about who we can and should be as God’s people and what it really means to love our neighbor.”
    • Reeves says he plans to get vaccinated once his doctor tells him it’s safe to do so.
  6. Rev. Juan Angel Monge-Santiago (  All Saints Episcopal Church )
    • For Monge-Santiago, promoting the vaccines is not only about keeping the church’s community safe, but also about adhering to some core tenants of his religion.
    • “When it came time for vaccines, we started to let people know that we’ve been involved with local and state health authorities who are providing all the information. We wanted to explain to our community that we were up to par with all the information being provided. We determined it was important we be part of this vaccine push,” he said. “Our bishop said this is our way of showing our love for our neighbor: taking care of ourselves and taking care of others.”
    • From the beginning of the pandemic, Monge-Santiago said the greater Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey took the health threats of COVID-19 seriously.
    • They stopped in-person services and instead embraced Zoom-based services like many other churches and places of worship have done around the world during the pandemic.
    • Once the United States started to turn the corner of the pandemic and gradually reopen, Monge-Santiago said the church started a “reentering, reopening, reimagining task force” for its community, consisting of priests and laypeople alike.
    • This task force even included a parishioner who happens to also be an epidemiologist, who volunteered to answer questions and offer his expertise about the health crisis.
    • Monge-Santiago said All Saints’ community is “a big, bilingual, multicultural community.” He offers services in both English and Spanish and said it was crucial his church sponsors events like the recent vaccine drive given how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected People of Color, especially members of the greater Latino and Hispanic communities.
    • “I noticed a lot of members of our Hispanic community were being provided information not based on any scientific data, hearing things like, ‘If I get vaccinated, I will die’ or ‘So-and-so died because they got vaccinated,’” he recounted.
    • Monge-Santiago said he regularly works to dispel such misinformation and to encourage people in his community to get vaccinated.
    • “If we want to be here, we have to protect those around us, especially those who can’t be vaccinated because they have a certain medical condition that doesn’t allow them to be vaccinated. We will never get this under control otherwise,” he said.
    • Monge-Santiago said that faith leaders like himself can be crucial in fighting COVID-19 and protecting their communities. The trust their communities give them and the intimate connection forged between priest and parishioner can in many ways be more effective than the words of a politician, celebrity, or talking head on TV.
    • “I think, first of all, if we [religious leaders] have to come from a place of love, of showing the community how much we love them by caring for them, it cannot be an act of selfishness, it cannot be about being a political individual or trying to accomplish something for myself,” Monge-Santiago explained. “My place of love has to be beyond me, it has to be centered on my love of my community.”
    • “As long as this is a possibility that it is a risk for someone, we need to keep at it. We need to keep asking people to take care of themselves, to take care of others, to be informed, and to take the action that their conscience is telling you,” Monge-Santiago said.
    • He said that the Episcopal Church is based on three main pillars: the scriptures, what one learns from one’s experiences, and reasoning.
    • He said that the final one is key to combatting COVID-19.
    • “Without reasoning, I would use the Bible literally and do a lot of things that would hurt a lot of people,” Monge-Santiago said, citing some of the violence of the Old Testament that would make no ethical sense in the modern world.
    • Instead, he explained that key religious leaders should look at their faith as ever-evolving, organic, and shifting. More importantly, one has to “lead with love” and compassion, and do what is necessary to lead one’s community through this current dark time, Monge-Santiago added.
  7. Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson ( Grace Baptist Church )
    • it’s important to know that, going into COVID-19, “the African American community was set up for failure.”
    •  “The healthcare system has not been effective in addressing the needs of the African American community. Therefore, African Americans had greater viability of catching the virus more than other populations in the United States,” Richardson told Healthline. “We met that challenge right away, but unfortunately, we were disadvantaged going in and disadvantaged going out.”
    • Richardson said he can approach this health threat from the local, granular level of being a pastor presiding over a historic, Black church, and the larger perspective of serving as head of the Conference of National Black Churches, which serves 30,000 congregations nationwide.
    • He said the coronavirus’s threat to Black communities was monumental, and it was important to pinpoint what needed to be done early on, given the systemic economic, political, and cultural disadvantages the Black community faces nationwide.
    • Richardson said Grace Baptist Church, true to its mission, aimed to serve and protect its community right away.
    • The implications of the pandemic, from food and housing insecurity to the psychological toll a community experiences (such as seeing “multiple funerals a day”), forced the church to become something of a grief counseling space, vaccination center, and food distribution center — a community’s safe haven and all-around frontline defense against the virus.
    • “That was just the granular, local level. As a pastor, I’m deeply engaged and understand the hesitancy some members of the community might have with the vaccine because I understand the history of the medical field as it pertains to African Americans — the lack of trust in the system, which is a lot to overcome,” Richardson said.
    • “Churches have the capacity, unlike any other institution in the community, to reach people,” he added. “First of all, it’s your trusted voices, the pastors talk to members of their communities for years. They marry them, they bless their children, they’re the trusted voices.”
    • Richardson said how crucial churches can be in reaching people who live in so-called “pharmacy deserts”: rural areas where many Black and low-income households don’t have the luxury of a pharmacy on every block, like in resource-rich urban areas.
    • In many ways, the Black church can fill a lot of the gaps made by the institutional failings of our country’s health and political systems.
    • Keeping that in mind, Richardson was instrumental in setting up a training program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so that these trusted religious leaders in Black churches could be equipped with the tools needed to encourage their parishioners to get vaccinated and to feel comfortable with the science behind the vaccines.
    • “We discussed the historical mistakes and neglect by the CDC and many of the other health agencies as it pertains to African Americans,” Richardson said. “We have trusted voices and are providing those voices with trusted content, so pastors have the data they can trust so they can debunk conspiracy theories.”
    • Richardson explained that if you don’t address why there is hesitancy among communities of color to get vaccinated, if you don’t tackle the racist history of “Black people being used as guinea pigs,” then no progress will be made.
    • The history of how Black and Latino people have been treated by the medical establishment has been incredibly bleak.
    • One of the main examples often pointed to is the Tuskegee experiments, which ran for 40 years from 1932 to 1972. The goal was to track the natural progression of syphilis.
    • Researchers initially recruited 600 Black men (399 who had the disease, 201 who did not). They conducted the study without the participants’ informed consent.
    • According to the CDCTrusted Source, researchers justified the study by telling these men they were being treated for “bad blood,” which referred to conditions like anemia and fatigue as well as syphilis.
    • “The problem of the pandemic unearthed the sins of the past, unearthed neglect. One of the places where African Americans have been neglected — and the CDC owns this — is not enough attention or training has gone to addressing vaccinations in African American communities. So, not only do we have a lack of vaccinations as it relates to the pandemic, but African Americans have a deficit in vaccinations for other diseases,” Richardson said.
    • Richardson added it’s been disorienting to witness the current mainstream discussions about the state of the pandemic in the United States, such as messages that everyone can go enjoy the summer now that their vaccinated, while Black people nationwide are still reckoning with a pandemic that continues to sweep through their communities.
    • He reiterated the fact that Black people “were in a bad place going in and a bad place coming out” of COVID-19.
    • “I get statistics twice a week from my team that tells me the state of the pandemic for African Americans. We have focused our program on 18 states and 70 counties, and what we see, well, we see very alarming statistics that do not align with the national statistics of where we are with the pandemic,” he stressed.
    • For example, Richardson pointed out that in Florida, only 7 percent of vaccinated people (at the time of the interview) are Black.
    • With those statistics in mind, Richardson said this is an important moment — a calling, if you will — for Black pastors to lead.
    • “I don’t think there is anything more impactful that pertains to the African American community. There is nobody who has access in the African American community at the granular level as does the Black church. No question about it. It’s the only institution that meets its constituency every week,” Richardson explained.
    • He added, “It’s not like we meet for a convention once a year or twice a year. The pastor talks to these people every week. He or she builds cumulative trust. So, if you give that pastor capacity and information for education about vaccinations, then he can or she can be very effective in helping fight the hesitancy rate and get people to enroll in vaccinations.”
    • For Richardson, if we were to revisit this conversation 6 months down the road, he said he would like to see the Black community “at least equal to the rest of the population” when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.
    • “That would be my least expectation. Beyond that, we’ve shared this with the CDC, we’ve got to make up for 50 years of neglect of not educating minority communities when it comes to vaccinations,” Richardson said.
    • Essentially, he said the fight against COVID-19 can’t be the stopping point.
    • It has to be the beginning of addressing these inequities in public health.
  8. Amy Nunn, ScD, a professor of behavioral and social sciences as well as medicine at the Brown School of Public Health
    • Amy Nunn told Healthline that religious leaders hold immense sway.
    • They can severely swing the pendulum one way or the other for how a community responds to public health messaging around something like COVID-19 vaccinations.
    • “I think they [religious leaders] can have very positive or negative influences because they are the key thought leaders in a lot of communities,” Nunn said.
    • As a researcher and public health expert, Nunn has a unique perspective in the role of religious-leader-as-public-health-influencer. She’s worked extensively with Black churches in the South, particularly in Mississippi, devising public health and wellness initiatives tied to fighting a different epidemic: HIV.
    • Nunn said from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was encouraged by how involved Black pastors were in spreading accurate, scientifically vetted information to their communities.
    • She stressed that this was incredibly important for fighting the pandemic, especially given how starkly Black communities nationwide were affected by COVID-19.
    • “Black pastors wanted to get involved. They were overwhelmingly positive about getting the word out about COVID testing, and now about COVID vaccinations,” Nunn added.
    • Nunn explained that one of the big reasons for this high level of engagement was practical: They wanted to get their communities back to church.
    • Beyond that, these pastors were frontline witnesses to the horrors of the pandemic. They were seeing just how many members of their congregations were dying at disproportionately high rates, how hard their local businesses were suffering.
    • They were also seeing the cumulative toll the pandemic was taking on their communities in conjunction with the deep-seated racial inequities of this country.
    • “They were officiating the funerals, the bottom lines of their churches were affected. Black pastors overwhelmingly wanted to get involved in this issue,” Nunn said. “A lot of them have held vaccination events and have normalized testing and those kinds of things. I think it’s been positive.”
    • When it comes to the tools religious figures have in spreading the word about COVID-19 vaccines, Nunn said they can play a great role in “normalizing conversations around all the evolving CDC guidelines” for their communities.
    • “A lot of people have been through a lot this year, and I think the church can have a really important role to play in the fabric of healing, of mental healing, of social healing, of spiritual healing, of physical healing,” Nunn said. “I’ve seen it firsthand in my work with Black pastors.”
    • Nunn said that what has been especially troubling to her is the role white evangelical churches have played in dissuading their communities from getting vaccinated.
    • “Honestly, I don’t know any Black churches that have done this. In some churches in the evangelical community, they have been actively discouraging vaccinations,” Nunn said.
    • “I know in Mississippi, initially they were most concerned about getting Black clergy involved, and now they actually are trying hard to get white evangelical pastors involved,” she said. “The most vaccine hesitancy has not been among People of Color, it’s been among white evangelicals, and so obviously that is a huge problem in this country.”
    • Nunn wanted to be clear not to paint with a broad brush. There have been examples of evangelical leaders pushing against this vaccine-resistant wave.
    • “I think most people, on the extreme ends, have very strong opinions, and on those ends it’s very hard to convince people who are skeptical about science to believe in science. That’s my personal opinion,” Nunn said.
    • She added she doesn’t know the clear answer of how to combat that anti-science messaging.
    • “We might not be able to do it. I think the only way to do it would be to flood the airwaves we want to work with, with key opinion leaders and convince them, but I think mass media has an important role to play, and there have been some conservative media outlets that have spread some misinformation about science, and I think that is a real, real challenge,” Nunn said.
    • In short, it’s hard for the most well-meaning public health experts and even religious leaders alike to combat the force of misinformation that gets politicized, weaponized, and disseminated by the likes of Fox News.
    • An April 2021 study, Trusted Source revealed that self-identified Republicans actually became more vaccine-hesitant as the pandemic unfolded.
    • The quandary Nunn is citing is not just a public health problem, but a political issue.
  9. Pastor Marshall Mitchell of Salem Baptist Church in Abington, PA
    • Pastor Marshall Mitchell received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine last month to help restore trust in vaccines among the African American community.
    • Mitchell is a key player with the Black Doctors COVID Consortium. He says it’s not a “maybe,” but a must that Black people get vaccinated, given they are dying at a higher rate from the virus.
    • “I’ve probably encountered hundreds of people who are COVID-positive, and I was very fortunate to be designated as one of the frontline people,” Mitchell told ABC 6 Action News.
  10. Pastor Reginald Belton of First Baptist Church of Brownsville in Brooklyn, NY
    • “As a pastor and as a health care worker, I can see why people should take it, because of the devastation that I’ve seen.  But I also understand why the African-American community does not trust it because of how we’ve been treated in the past,”
    • He also performs pastoral care at a hospital.
  11. Mimi Kiser, senior program director of the Interfaith Health Program and an assistant professor at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.
    • Georgia is one of 11 states taking part in a National Institutes of Health research effort to counter COVID-19 disparities among communities of color.
    • In Atlanta, historically black Morehouse School of Medicine reached out to Emory and the two schools have partnered to engage with the local Black community, including church leaders, says Kiser.
  12. NIH Director Francis Collins, MD
    • NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, who is a regular churchgoer, has talked about the COVID-19 vaccines with different Christian faith groups to counter misinformation, according to an interview with The Washington Post. He’s consulted with the Rev. Russell Moore, who heads the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, and California megachurch Pastor Rick Warren. And he held two private calls with groups of about 30 faith influencers, the Post reported.
  13. Jerome Adams, MD – Father, physician, public health advocate. Former IN Health Commissioner/ Associate Professor of Anesthesia/ 20th US Surgeon General
    • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were found to be ethically uncontroversial by the pro-life policy organization the Charlotte Lozier Institute, and the Catholic Health Association of the United States…
    • In response to requests for guidance on the use of vaccines which, “in the course of research employed cell lines from two abortions occurring in the last century,” the Vatican and Pope have said, current COVID-19 vaccines are morally acceptable
      ( Link )
  14. Anthony Fauci, MD – director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President
    • Anthony Fauci, MD, who received a Jesuit education, has addressed houses of worship recently about the COVID-19 vaccines, including Roxbury Presbyterian Church in Boston and interfaith leaders during a Facts & Faith Friday webinar this month hosted by Virginia’s Department of Health Office of Health Equity.
    • “We’ve worked really hard in the vaccine trial to do the kind of community outreach to the African American community and actually worked through their churches to try to convince people that it’s in their own best interests to be part of this,” Collins said. “The Moderna trial ended up with 37% of the participants being people of color, which is a pretty significant achievement.

 

Videos

  1. SkyNews
    • COVID-19: Ethnic minority communities being ‘targeted’ by anti-vaxxers
      • Profile
        • While the UK is making fast progress with the vaccine rollout, scientists are concerned about the level of uptake among ethnic minorities.
        • Last week it emerged that only 28% of the Black community said they would be willing to take the jab.
        • There is hesitancy too among British Muslims and evidence that they are being specifically targeted by anti-vax campaigners.
      • Videos

 

References

  1. ABC
    • ABC News
      • Blessing by way of medicine: These pastors preach COVID-19 vaccination as God’s healing power
        Link
  2. NPR
    • Unvaccinated Pastor Who Almost Died Of COVID Now Preaches The Importance Of Vaccines
      Link
  3. Healthline
    • These Pastors Are Spreading the Good News About the COVID-19 Vaccine
      Link
    • Why Some Black and Latinx People Are Reluctant to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
      Link
  4. Minhaj.Org
    • COVID-19: ‘Saving lives is an act of worship’ – leading scholar urges Muslims to have COVID vaccine
      Link
  5. WebMD
    • Faith Leaders Spread the Word: Get Vaccinated
      Link

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