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From the Synod Moderator: To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate?
COVID-19 National Vaccination
Rt Rev Keith Lai
Mar 2021

Singapore injected its first batch of healthcare workers with the COVID-19 vaccine as 2020 drew to a close. Gradually, in the coming weeks and days, COVID-19 vaccines will be progressively rolled out – to cover the majority of the population in phases, starting with the elderly and so forth. This is to achieve "herd immunity" as strongly advised by our government, which will help mitigate the pandemic situation, but may not necessarily eliminate it as we all know. However, safety measures and precautions, wearing of masks, including practice of social distancing are still to be ever mindful of.

To be sure, some of us may have mixed reactions to this vaccination call. Perhaps, you yourself may be struggling over the decision as well, for whatever reasons. So how do we as God's people decide on such matters and on what basis?

Plagues and pandemic are not new. We can learn from the Reformer, Martin Luther, on how he responded during a deadly plague of his time. What he wrote can still resonate with us even today. In fact, his words sounded very much like an advisory coming from Ministry of Culture, community and Youth (MCCY).

"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others."

What is important about Luther's insightful and wise advice is that it is grounded, rooted in the Word of God.

The First lesson is Humble Trust in God's protection. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
This speaks for those who may subtly place their total trust in the "vaccination", and forget that our lives are ultimately in God's hand. This deep trust comes out in the last line, "If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me ..." We need to look beyond the vaccine, even beyond scientists and politicians, to God the Giver and Sustainer of life for protection (Psalm 91:14-15).

The Second lesson is about loving our Neighbours as ourselves. (Matthew 22:38-39)
We are to observe all responsible safe measurements put in place so that we will not do anything that would endanger, directly or indirectly, the health and life of people around us. This is our loving responsibility. Taking the vaccination is one way we protect and safeguard ourselves and our neighbours as well.

The Third lesson is Submission to ruling Authorities. (Romans 13:1-5)
Another helpful principle. This should guide us in our decision, heeding the exhortation to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities, especially when we believe they have governed justly and act in our best interests.

You will invariably find, in conversations with different people, various concerns raised about the frenetic race to develop COVID-19 vaccines and its seemingly fast-tracked development which may have unintended side effects. How do we know a vaccine is safe?

It is paramount importance for each one of us to find out the accuracy in testing and having confidence as to whether these vaccine shots meet necessary scientific, regulatory rigour despite its speedy development and why such outcome is possible, without the inherent dangers of cutting corners and compromising in validating production process of such vaccines, trials and testing etc. The reason why most vaccines take many years to develop is due to the high cost involved. With the Covid-19 crisis and emergency, countries and companies are willing to pour in more resources and funds so as to expedite the process for life to return to normal as much as possible, economies and businesses to get back on their feet as more people need to become immune to the virus. However, despite the genuine need for urgency, the old saying applies: measure twice, cut once.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, there will be some who choose not to be vaccinated for whatever reasons - valid or otherwise. But we have to respect their decision ultimately and without judgement. So, whatever our decision, let's continue to put our trust in God, Our Protector and Sustainer, persevere in prayer for one another in these crucial times, and not forgetting our Government in keeping up with the good work and administration of watching and keeping and the whole pandemic situation under reasonable control, thus far.

Here are some useful and pertinent questions which we can reflect as we consider our decision about the whole vaccination issue:

  • Do we see the vaccination as God's gracious provision?
  • Do we take the vaccination as an act of faith in God?
  • Is taking the vaccination an act of loving ourselves and others?
  • Am I submitting to good governmental advice and its provisions?

May the Lord grant us strength and protection, supporting us through all manners of dangers and frailties of health - as we all take refuge in Him during these crucial times. And to care for one another, even as He cared for each one of us so, unconditionally and intimately. Amen.


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