Church leaders have mixed views on COVID-19 vaccine

Church leaders have mixed views on COVID-19 vaccine

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 18, 2021

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THERE were mixed views among some Jamaican church leaders on the taking of the COVID-19 vaccine later this year, but they agreed that members would have to make their own decisions.

“I would be willing to take the vaccine. It [COVID-19] is affecting everyone and one of the sure ways that it can be controlled is through vaccination. I think it will have an impact on slowing the spread. Vaccination is something that we are accustomed to, I think the real issue individuals have with not wanting to take a vaccine in this particular instance is maybe how quickly it has been developed,” said Pastor Omar Oliphant of Hagley Park Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Pastor Oliphant said his role as a church leader is not to insert himself in the midst of an individual's health choice but to ensure factual information is shared.

“I would say to them [members] that 'I have no fear in taking it with proper research and advice from my doctor and you should feel free to consult with your physician and based on their advice, you can decide'. As Christians we are at liberty to make personal decisions in non-moral matters,” he said.

Bishop Everton Thomas, who leads the congregation at Emmanuel Apostolic Church in Kingston and St Catherine, said he would take the vaccine, once his doctor confirms that it is safe.

“We are all familiar with vaccinations, they are not new. Vaccinations have tremendous benefits and are compatible with Christian faith, so we should be good stewards of our bodies that were created by God. Once we trust God for protection and healing, we have the responsibility to do whatever we can to help to ward off or to recover from illnesses,” said Bishop Thomas.

Deacon at Church of the Open Bible and president of Guardian Life Limited, Eric Hosin, noting that God has given men the wisdom to become doctors to heal people and provided scientists with breakthrough information, said he plans to take the vaccine.

“I plan to, I feel pretty comfortable that the proper testing has been done. I have spoken with friends in medical professions and I have seen different persons taking it, so I feel pretty confident that it is safe,” he said.

Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) president, Rev Newton Dixon, said he was bemused that although science has existed for centuries, there are still questions about the reliability and validity.

“While I don't want to swing my arms wide open to say the vaccine is the panacea for the pandemic, we have lived with vaccines, we've trusted vaccines and we now should exercise some level of acceptance for the value that a vaccine can have with the quality of life. I believe that we should take the vaccine as long as the science tells us with first level of urgency that it is safe to do so,” he said.

Rev Devon Dick of Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew said that once the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and helpful he would take it and also encourage his members to do likewise.

Meanwhile, other church leaders were sceptical about taking the COVID-19 vaccine. A lack of information, general distrust of vaccines and conspiracy theories emerged as the predominant sentiments.

Bishop Dr Romeon Facey of Freedom Evangelical Association in Portmore indicated that he will not take the jab nor encourage his members to do so, due to health reasons, among others.

“Our concern is how quickly the vaccine was formulated. Knowing the history of vaccination, it takes years...sometimes five years for a vaccine to be created and over a short period of time this vaccine was created. At the same time, we do not know and have no history of how well this vaccine is going to work,” said Bishop Facey.

“My opinion is that vaccination should never be mandatory until the vaccine has been proven to be safe,” he added.

Pastor Marlett Pottinger of Fellowship Tabernacle had similar concerns, noting that it is best to be properly informed.

“I have benefited from vaccines over the years, however, for the COVID-19 vaccine I don't think that I have been properly informed and because I see some inconsistencies with information that is disseminated to the public. I would have to get more information to give an opinion on it,” she said.


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