Urging vaccinations, faith leaders cite belief, reason, responsibility

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — As health leaders in the state work to get COVID vaccines into arms, there’s still hesitancy to accept the vaccine in some communities.

A virtual gathering of faith leaders organized by the Michigan Department and Health and Human Services took place late Thursday afternoon, with health leaders hoping people who are still uncertain about the vaccines will look to the clergy for guidance.

Leaders of different faiths discussed the concerns they have hearing from their communities and talked about how faith plays a role in their decision to accept the vaccine.

“God’s not going to do for you what you can do for yourself,” Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, said. “So at the end of the day, we pray to God: ‘God, bring us healing, God, bring us an answer, God, help to turn the tide.’ And then the Lord sends us medical experts and doctors and those individuals help give us good information and to keep us strong and keep us living the best life we can.”

“One of the things as we here as leaders of faith, people say, ‘I put my trust in God, I have faith in miracles, I have Jesus, I don’t need no vaccine.’ Yes, we can believe in miracles and in wonderful things happening and we can also believe that God gave us gifts as doctors and scientists and healers and helpers,” agreed Lydia Kelsey Bucklin of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. “And then we are given reason to make those decisions and to care for ourselves. It’s a both-and.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said people should see the vaccine as a tool we need to end the pandemic. She reiterated that no steps were skipped in creating the vaccines and they were tested on tens of thousands of people.

She also recognized that American health care has a history of mistreating people of color. She said it’s appropriate for people to have and ask questions.

“If they have a religious question, they come to me, the bishop, the rabbi, but this is a medical issue. This is a scientific issue. People have to listen to Dr. Khaldun. This is an area of the expert and people on this issue should listen to the expert of the area,” Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights said.

“In Jewish tradition, it is not just a choice but an obligation to protect your health and just as much to protect the health safety and life of others,” Rabbi Mark Miller, senior rabbi of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, said. “If enough of us don’t get this vaccine, if enough of us don’t protect ourselves and others, it won’t help everyone. It’s our responsibility.”

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