Earlier this month, a group of pastors in southern Manitoba met to discuss the low COVID-19 vaccine uptake in their area, and how they could help.
“I believe religious leaders definitely have a role in protecting our community and showing love to our neighbours, it’s one of the central truths that Jesus taught us,” said Pastor John Klassen. . . . “Some of the best examples I’ve seen of pastors doing this is by telling their stories of being vaccinated, and why they chose to do so.” – from a report by Candace Derksen, Pembina Valley Online
Southern Manitoba is not alone in needing to address vaccine hesitancy. Both Manitoba and Alberta have announced lotteries with cash, scholarships, and other prizes to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. In the United States, People did a round-up article on How to Get the Best Promotions, Prizes and Freebies with Your COVID-19 Vaccine that included free food, alcohol, event tickets, scholarships, and prize money. Here in British Columbia, having an adequate supply of vaccine has been more of a concern, with the vaccine itself enough of an incentive so far. But vaccine uptake has been uneven with some areas lower than others, and vaccine hesitancy needs to be addressed here too. To that end, below I share some of my vaccine story, and my ten reasons for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
1. For your own health and self-care.
Like physical distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one more layer of protection against a highly contagious disease that has so far killed over 26,000 people in Canada and 3.88 million people worldwide. In Canada alone, there have been 1.41 million cases—with some hospitals overwhelmed with caring for seriously ill patients and some patients who have recovered still dealing with ongoing health issues. While vaccinations do not provide 100% protection, especially in the case of variants, those who have been fully vaccinated are less likely to get sick with COVID-19 and less likely to be seriously ill or die from it.
2. To protect your loved ones.
Besides caring for your own health, getting vaccinated can protect your loved ones. Again, the protection is not 100%, but getting vaccinated means that you are less likely to pass on the COVID-19 virus, so your loved ones are less likely to get sick, less likely to get seriously ill, less likely to die from it. This helps to protect children who are not able to be vaccinated, or a spouse or other adult family members who cannot be vaccinated due to health issues, or whose immune systems may mean vaccination is less effective for them.
3. To protect those who are vulnerable in your community.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.
For herd immunity, it’s not clear what percentage of a community would need to be immune by developing natural antibodies or by being vaccinated, but the more people are vaccinated, the closer we get to herd immunity. This protects those who cannot be vaccinated, including children and those with compromised immune systems, plus reducing transmission also reduces opportunities for the virus to mutate and develop new variants that may be more resistant to existing vaccines.
4. For the good of the community as a whole.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at reducing case counts, hospitalizations, and death, which will allow community restrictions to be lifted. Businesses can re-open. Restaurants can once again offer indoor dining. Churches will be able to meet in person for worship. Students will be able to return to school in fall. We’ll be able to gather in person for birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, and other occasions. We’ll be able to visit in our homes, share hugs and handshakes. Getting vaccinated helps all of us get back to more normal social interactions.
5. In keeping with Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as ourselves.
In the worst of the pandemic when some churches in our area refused to stop meeting in person, Pastor Frank Berto gave this biblical example in a radio interview:
There’s a funny little verse in the Old Testament—because they used to hang out on the roofs of their houses—that says, Look, put a fence around your house so when you’re hanging out with your friends, no one is going to fall off your roof. It’s your way of caring for your neighbour. It’s the same thing with a mask: put a fence around your face so that your neighbour might live, to care for your neighbour.
That same principle of caring for others applies to wearing masks, to churches giving up meeting together for a time, and now to vaccinations. All are practical ways of caring for our neighbours.
6. Because vaccines are effective and relatively safe compared to the disease.
As with any other medical intervention, vaccines carry some risk. Some have needed surgery or have died due to blood clots as a result of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Concern has been raised about the risk of heart inflammation with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Since available vaccines have been newly developed and approved for emergency use, studies on any long-term effects have not yet been completed. Given the evidence so far, however, it would seem that the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is greater than the health risk of the vaccine, but do consider your personal situation carefully. Since my husband is in active cancer treatment, we consulted with each of his doctors about whether he should get vaccinated and what would be the best timing given his treatment schedule. For your personal situation, it would also be wise to consult with your medical health care practitioner(s).
7. Because God created the world and everything in it, including science, medicine, and vaccines.
Science and Christian faith are not at odds with one another. As J. Todd Billings writes in ” Vaccine Skeptics Need a Dose of Creation Theology“:
the crux of the vaccine question does not hinge upon trust in a particular political party or agenda, but upon our response to God’s workmanship in creation. With trust in God as the creator of the complex harmony we observe in the creation, we can receive the vaccine as a divine gift.
8. Because COVID-19 vaccines are free and accessible.
Where I live, COVID-19 vaccinations are offered free of charge through local pharmacies and clinics. Registration is available online, by phone, and in person. For us it was easiest to register online, but when we were eligible to book our appointments, I called in so I could book a double appointment for us both at the same time since that’s not always possible online. To my surprise, there was no wait when I phoned—after the opening menus, my call was answered right away. To increase accessibility, there have also been pop-up clinics with no appointments necessary, including a 32-hour Vaxathon with live music and door prizes.
9. Because the minor inconvenience is worth it.
Friends had told me how the clinic was so efficient and well-organized that they had been in and out in half an hour including the 15-minute wait time after their vaccine. But the day my husband and I went, there were so many people at the clinic that we had to wait outside for half an hour in the rain (yes, even my immune-compromised husband), then another half an hour inside, so we didn’t get our vaccines until an hour after our appointment time. While we were still outside, we were handed several sheets of paper—some to read and take home, some to fill out, but no sanitized clipboards to write on as one friend had described. Then with our hands full of papers with nowhere to write, we were told to sanitize and vaguely waved over to a bottle of hand sanitizer sitting on a chair. So unlike the experience of another friend who said at her clinic there was one person whose only job was to spritz everyone’s hands with sanitizer. I overheard one of the workers say, “We don’t seem very well organized today,” and I silently agreed. But we still managed to get our vaccines, and afterward went home to celebrate with a dish of Chocolate Hazelnut Decadence Coconut Bliss.
10. In a spirit of trust in God
While my husband barely felt the vaccine, I definitely experienced it as a jab, almost as if I were being punched in the arm. My neck, shoulder, and arm were sore for that day and the next, but other than some minor aches, we experienced very little in the way of side effects. We hope that will also be the case with our second vaccines, which are booked for next month.
I can’t say we’ll exactly be vaccine happy once we’re fully vaccinated. We know that the vaccines aren’t perfect or without risk, and we don’t know how effective they’ll be for those who are immune-compromised and given the variants of concern. But we want to do what we can to care for ourselves and others, and whatever the risks, we continue to place our trust in God who cares for us.
If you’re still hesitating to get vaccinated against COVID-19, I hope my story and this post will encourage you to consider your situation, consult your health care practitioner, and do what you can to take care of yourself, love your neighbour, and continue to trust God.
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