Churches offering their grounds as vaccination centres

THE Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) says churches which are members of its council are willing to have their grounds used by the Ministry of Health and Wellness as vaccination centres if needs be.

This, the JCC said, would aid the Government in the necessary roll-out, as sceptics continue to downplay the significance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The churches which are members of the JCC would welcome the opportunity for our spaces to be used as vaccination centres as long as we can meet the necessary protocols. In fact, that may work to the advantage of the health sector because our churches are places where many people feel safe and comfortable. That fact alone may help to allay some of the inhibitions and fears that some persons may have, especially the elderly,” president of the JCC Rev Newton Dixon told the Jamaica Observer.

Of the 41,400 COVID-19-positive cases in Jamaica up to Tuesday this week, 18,444 have recovered and 631 people have died. Most of the dead are people 60 years and older.

Citing those figures, Dixon said the Church has a responsibility to promote the vaccine, considering the fact that most church congregations are made up largely of elderly people.

“The Church has the understanding that one of its main pastoral concerns is the health and wellness of the nation as a whole, and its members in particular. So we subscribe to sensible and safe measures that offer protection and care for people, especially the vulnerable, whatever the nature of their vulnerability may be. We believe that vaccines which have been produced provide protection against the COVID-19 disease,” he said.

“On the basis of our view that the vaccine will offer this protection, especially to the elderly, we see the need to and have been promoting it. The Church promotes science. We have not seen sufficient evidence to suggest that the vaccines are a part of a diabolical plan to destroy the human race.”

Speaking at a recent virtual sensitisation seminar hosted by Jamaica Ecumenical Mutual Mission (JEMM) and St Augustine Mutual Mission (SAMM), public health specialist, Dr Sonia Copeland said the Church has a role in ensuring people make an informed decision.

“The Church has a responsibility to present as much information as possible about vaccination and then leave it to the congregants to make up their own minds about it. I think that has been the approach,” Copeland said in response to a question posed by the Observer.

In his presentation, ‘A Theological Response to COVID-19 and Vaccines , Rev Norbert Stephens, general secretary at the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, said no Christian who is truly knowledgeable of the Bible would support the “myths” being spread about COVID-19 vaccines.

He pointed to theories about the pandemic being a sign of “end times” and the vaccine being the “mark of the beast”.

“Christians have been trying and failing to predict the end of the world since the early days of the Church. The answer is that there is no answer or certain signal, and the lesson to be appropriated is that we should ignore those who think they have an answer for the end times. The second theory or myth that is very common in these days is that the vaccines are the mark of the beast. The main argument is that to be inoculated with the vaccine is to receive the mark of the beast,” he said.

Added Stephens: “And there are others who believe that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has arranged with the vaccine producers to ensure that there’s a kind of ink that goes into your body, that gives you a digital passport, that will allow people to know if you’re vaccinated or not. No serious Biblical scholar would support this argument.”

Stephens contended that Jamaica has had a long and successful experience with vaccinations.

“Vaccines have helped to eradicate some of the diseases which we have had to deal with as a developing nation. We think the present situation is no different and we do not see any evidence which is sufficient to convince us that this vaccine is part of a diabolical plot to cause harm and death. In fact, we believe that the vaccine is one very important component in a mix of strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A historical review of vaccination programmes may show that there is a tendency towards suspicion about them. This is another such case, and so the Church continues to engage its communities and its members to provide accurate and relevant information,” said Stephens.

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