Sunday, January 3, 2021

God, COVID, and Vaccines


On December 28, 2020 I was fortunate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Since no pictures were allowed at our immunization site (it was run by the National Guard) I posted the card verifying my receipt of the injection on social media. 

The response to posts from health care workers about the vaccine has been interesting. Responses generally fall in one of four categories. 

First are the responses that are congratulatory or express thanks. This was the most common sentiment that people expressed to me personally. 

But other people have concerns about receiving this life saving preventative treatment. People are truly struggling because they want to do the right thing, but are also worried about the possible long term effects that we don't know about yet. Because the vaccine was developed so quickly it’s expected that there will be some concerns about long term unknown consequences. The CDC is monitoring it closely (I get a text every day). Regardless, the real and known risk of continued deaths and possible long term side effects from contracting COVID far outweigh any possible unforeseen vaccine consequence in my opinion. With more than 1 out of 1000 people in the US now dead from this virus we must do all we can. I cannot fathom that there will be an as of yet unknown side effect or death rate from the vaccine that would even come close to affecting 1:1000 Americans. For credible information on the COVID-19 vaccination click HERE.

Then there are the conspiracy theories that, quite frankly, are very disheartening because they do so much damage. Some of the ones I've seen on TikTok, Instagram and other places include that the vaccine:  

  • contains a microchip
  • alters your DNA
  • will give you COVID-19
  • is less effective than our own immune system
The best way to counter these conspiracy theories is to approach the person with compassion, remember that they truly believe these things which must be very scary, and try to educate/redirect to a reliable source of information. 

The fourth category of responses is one that as both a spiritual leader and a physician I find particularly difficult. A dear friend was posting his disappointment that he could no longer gather with his faith community due to a spike in cases in his area. He went on to say he would not even consider receiving the vaccine because to do so would mean he did not have faith in God to protect him. He was firm in his belief that not only would God protect him from the virus, but that God would protect his pastor and all those that gathered in their faith community for worship from contracting COVID. While I admire his faith, I think that it is actually the answers to our fervent prayers that God worked through the minds and hands of our scientists, helping them to develop a safe and effective vaccine with unprecedented speed. 

When I think about my friends position, I'm reminded of the old and well known "two boats and a helicopter" story. To refresh your memory: 

A storm descends on a small town, and the town soon begins to flood. As the water rises, the local pastor kneels in prayer on the front steps of the church, surrounded by water. 
Soon one of the townspeople comes by in a canoe and says, "You better get in pastor, the water is rising fast." "No" says the pastor, "I have faith, the Lord will save me."
Still the waters rise. The pastor has had to move up to the balcony because the stairs are now underwater. A motorboat comes by, and the driver shouts, "C'mon, get in. We need to get you out of here. The levee is about to give." Once again the pastor says, "I shall remain, God will see me through."
Finally the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church and only the steeple is visible. The pastor has climbed to the top, and is clutching the cross. A helicopter descends and over the loudspeaker the pilot says, "Grab the ladder. This is your last chance." The pastor again refuses help and says God will deliver him. 
And predictably he drowns. 
When he reaches heaven he sits down with God and asks, "Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn't you deliver me from that flood?" To which God answers, "What else did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter." 

Our prayers have been answered friends. God has sent two boats and a helicopter in the form of safe and effective vaccines. Have faith, roll up your sleeve, and do the right thing.