As of last week, everyone 16 years of age and older in the Pacific Northwest Conference qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s a massive step.
We’re not out of the woods, but we’re getting there. It’s still important to live with hope and caution.
- About a quarter of US adults are now fully vaccinated.
- Although there are promising signs that the vaccine will be effective with folks younger than 16, it’s still being tested.
- Some of the COVID variants seem to affect younger folks at a higher rate than other variances.
- Yep, a few folks have had vaccine side effects with a very few cases being life threatening.
- Yep, there have also been what’s been reported in the media as “vaccine breakthroughs” where people who were vaccinated and have become ill. However, that’s not a surprise. Even with the amazing news about vaccines that are 90% effective, that was always going to mean that 10% of those vaccinated were still going to be vulnerable. Amazingly, there have been less “breakthroughs” than expected.
Regardless, the basic message is this: the sooner people are vaccinated, the better. I can’t say I understand all the medical stuff but it sounds as though the virus spreads something like a rumor and the vaccine is something like truth. Like with a rumor, the virus changes into variants the more it’s spread and connects with people in different ways. Like a rumor, over time the variant less and less resembles the original. The truth helps stops the spread of a rumor but might not completely stop it. The COVID vaccine (and masks, still!) helps stop the spread of the virus but might not completely stop it.
Vaccinations are going to be a key part in reducing, mitigating, and isolating the spread of COVID-19 and it’s variants. Although it’s exciting to celebrate with friends and family when about their vaccination, in the US there are a significant number of people who are choosing not be vaccinated. Many of these folks are religious folks; specifically Christians. A recent Bloomberg article suggested that, in some areas, the challenge wasn’t running out of vaccines as much as running out of people willing to be vaccinated. This means that those of us in the church have a particular role in speaking with and listening to our siblings in Christ out of love and concern.
Throughout the Bible, there are recommendations for spiritual, emotional, and physical health. The basic idea was to take care of your body, soul, and mind so that you could serve God and God’s people. Getting a vaccine helps protect the body you are a steward of in the same way you use shoes, a jacket, a seatbelt, a helmet, sunscreen, insect repellent, or eat well, pray, exercise, etc.
I know there are some that believe that having a vaccine is, in some way, a rejection of the idea that the power of God will keep us healthy and safe. However, God works through people all the time to try and help us get what we need. I don’t grow most of my food, I didn’t build my own house, I didn’t make my clothes, I didn’t build the computer I’m writing on. These were all things other people did that help make me safe and healthy and help give me the capacity to serve others. God brings people into our lives all the time to help us. God calls us to help others, too.
Getting a vaccine is also an act of love. By taking care of our own health in this way, we leave room for the care of those who get ill or are dealing with other conditions. We’re caring for the health care workers and first responders by doing a part in pro-actively relieving their burden. We’re caring for those who’ve been isolated and alone by doing what we can to make a safer world in which to re-emerge. We’re showing appreciation and gratitude for our own lives and the lives of others. Getting a vaccine is an act of love and faith.
To have a conversation with those we love and care for who may be hesitant to be vaccinated might not be easy but is an act of love and faith, too. It is, ultimately, an individual’s choice whether or not they’re vaccinated. That’s not part of not our responsibility. Testifying to our faith and witnessing to the ways we find God in our lives is our opportunity.
I had my 2nd shot last Saturday. Before I decided to be vaccinated, I prayed about it and studied, too. Although there were lots of people with intriguing opinions, most doctors and almost every expert in the field of immunology said getting a vaccine was important. Yes, there were some risks with getting the vaccine and potential side effect, but the risks paled in comparison to the risks of not being vaccinated. Getting vaccinated helps protect my child, my community, and all those I am called to serve. My side effects were minimal (tiredness and a sore arm) and only lasted for about a day and a half. However, the discomfort that came was easily balanced with a deep sense of gratitude and relief.
Sometimes within the religious community – particularly the Christian community – we’re tempted to move beyond the healthy ways we differentiate ourselves and move into a process of “othering.” We deny we’re connected or related. We treat each other as almost another species. Jesus, however, invited us to do something other than this. I can’t believe that the one who said “…that they may be one…” wouldn’t have seen a moment like this as a moment to do what we can to draw closer; to love one another as best we’re able until we can love one another the way we are called to. Sharing our testimonies about being vaccinated is one of the ways we can live into that calling.
Rev. Mike Denton
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