Bishops of the Diocese of North Carolina Share Statement on COVID-19 Vaccines
The last 10 months have been a trial for all of us, but the successful development of vaccines for COVID-19 and their approval through rigorous medical trials are reasons for hope.
With distribution of the vaccines underway, we are committed as your bishops to making reliable information available to all and to doing everything we can to ensure these life-saving vaccines’ equitable and prompt distribution.
We can now move closer to a safer way of life and the opportunity eventually to gather together, again. That requires action from all of us: Vaccinations are what will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Until sufficient numbers of us have been vaccinated to achieve needed levels of immunity, we must remain vigilant about social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.
Understanding that some have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, we offer these reassurances:
- Vaccines, including these, are safe and effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have each been shown to be more than 90% effective.
- During the last 200 years, vaccination has controlled major communicable diseases, including polio, measles, mumps and rubella. With the exception of the provision of safe water supplies, vaccination has potentially saved more lives than any other medical intervention, including antibiotics.
- Ongoing systemic racism, including in the fields of science and medicine, has left racially subordinated communities understandably concerned with new interventions. Every indication we have is that these vaccines are equally safe for all, and we join with those in health care – medical professionals from these same underserved communities among them – who are urging Brown and Black people to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
- We believe the church can provide significant leadership for communicating and educating about COVID-19 and vaccination. In that spirit, we have formed the Diocesan Task Force on Vaccine Education, calling on experienced medical providers, scientists and educators in our diocese to take the lead in identifying educational resources along with information about access to vaccines in all parts of our diocese. Task Force members include:
- Maureen Flak, Parish nurse and public health advocate (Facilitator)
- The Rev. Scott Balderson, Deacon and physician assistant with the Duke Hospital Department of Surgery
- Joseph Graves, Professor at NC A&T University and PhD in evolutionary, environmental and systematic biology; Associate Director, Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine.
- James Horton, Physician at Atrium in Charlotte and infectious diseases specialist
- Chris Paul, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at NC Central University and director of the MPA and the health policy specialization
- The Rev. Sallie Simpson, Campus minister at St. Augustine’s University and retired nurse
Other diocesan leaders will support and supplement their work. We will be encouraging clergy to organize online town halls or other educational events to answer parishioners’ questions. For those who wish assistance, the task force will provide resources and access to medical and scientific professionals who are willing to participate in events to answer questions about vaccination.
Two resources currently available from the NC Department of Health and Human Services include this presentation and this video. Another resource from The New England Journal of Medicine is found here. In addition, a small step each parish can take is to share information about vaccination availability in their county.
We mourn with those in need of comfort, grieving the costs of this pandemic in the loss of more than 400,000 precious children of God, impacts to health that will not be resolved quickly or easily, and lives indefinitely disrupted. We also give thanks to the scientists and health care professionals, farmworkers and grocery store clerks, teachers and other essential workers who sacrificially continue to serve the welfare of us all even at the risk of their well-being.
Let us never forget that we are all in this together. St. Paul writes in the twelfth chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
We may not all be of one mind about the vaccination. That’s understandable. But let us be of the same Spirit in seeking not only the welfare of our individual selves, or our own households, but seeking the welfare of our wider communities, in fact, the whole global community.