SA Bishops Say: Get Vaccinated
The bishops of Southern Africa have urged the public to set aside fears based on unfounded theories and to register for vaccinations against Covid-19.
A statement signed by Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference president Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha notes that “some people and groups have expressed a few safety and ethical concerns around the Covid-19 vaccines. These have caused a number of people to refuse or express reluctance in having the vaccine”. His letter intends to address these concerns.The bishops of Southern Africa have urged the public to set aside fears based on unfounded theories, and to register for vaccinations against Covid-19.
The first of these claims concerns the speed at which the vaccines were developed, and whether they can be trusted to be effective.
Bishop Sipuka, referring to South African scientists, notes that the development of the vaccines was accelerated while adhering to safety, efficacy, scientific and ethical standards. The speed at which they were developed reflects the level of scientific advancement, rather than recklessness.
A second question addresses fears expressed by conspiracy theorists: “Some sections of the Christian community have strongly argued that the vaccine is not from God but is part of the ‘new world order’ governed by the devil and has 666, the ‘mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16). Many fear that by taking the vaccine, they will be forced to take ‘the mark of the beast’,” Bishop Sipuka noted.
“This association of the vaccine with the ‘mark of the beast’ is based on a wrong and fundamentalistic interpretation of the Book of Revelation and ignores the historical and biblical context,” the bishop explained.
He also dismissed a theory that the Covid-19 vaccine “is a ploy by the rich industrialised nations of the West to reduce the global population through the elimination of the black race”.
“This theory is baseless. In fact, vaccines are not new. Vaccines have been a reality for all of us from birth, for example vaccines against polio, measles and so on,” Bishop Sipuka said.
He also dismissed the claim that the Covid-19 vaccine will change our DNA. “The Covid-19 vaccine is not made of DNA elements and therefore cannot change our genetic code,” he said.
Bishop Sipuka acknowledged that some people who have received the vaccine reported side effects including pain, swelling, fatigue, headaches, fever, muscle and joint pain. However, he said, “as with other medication, such side effects eventually go — and you are protected from severe Covid-19 infection”.
“A few cases of blood clotting have also been reported and even fewer (less than 1%) have died after taking the vaccine — but there is no conclusive evidence that less than 1% of vaccinated people have died from the vaccine, so it is a safe risk to take the vaccine,” he said.
Addressing concerns that the Covid-19 vaccine is made from aborted foetuses, Bishop Sipuka explained that vaccines “originally included a protein sourced from a foetus but there is no evidence that current vaccines are directly made out of foetal tissue, nor is it true that foetuses were intentionally harvested to make the Covid-19 vaccine”.
“Yet, the use of foetus cell line at one stage of the development of Covid-19 vaccine remains an ethical problem. In the absence of an alternative vaccine, however, and in the interest of saving lives, according to the principle of choosing a lesser evil, use of Covid-19 vaccine with a link to a foetal cell line,” he said.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican in a “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines’, issued on December 21, 2020, said that “it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted foetuses in their research and production process” and that “from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”
Bishop Sipuka noted that Pope Francis has been vaccinated, as have been Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and a large number of religious leaders across the world and in South Africa. In the light of the facts outlined in the SACBC letter, “and as Pope Francis has led by example when he got vaccinated, we should be encouraged to take the vaccine.”
The SACBC echoed Pope Francis’ call that the vaccine must be made available to all.
“Let us join the efforts for equitable distribution of the vaccine and call those rich countries hoarding Covid-19 vaccine to task so that this common good may be accessible to all,” Bishop Sipuka said.
“We must all continue to pray for our health care workers and for all those who are assisting those in need at this time.”
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