A syringe is prepared with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Montreal on Monday, March 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A syringe is prepared with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Montreal on Monday, March 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canadian faith leaders preach value of COVID-19 vaccines among followers

‘It’s a special blessing because it’s something good not just for the person, but for society at large’

When plans for COVID-19 vaccines began to emerge, Rabbi Adam Cutler delivered a sermon at Toronto’s Adath Israel Congregation about a blessing people could recite when receiving their shot.

He said the translation of the Hebrew blessing means “blessed are you God, king of the universe, who is good and bestows good.”

“I think there is an obligation to be grateful to God,” he said in a recent interview.

“It’s a special blessing because it’s something good not just for the person, but actually for society at large.”

Some faith leaders are combining science with scripture to dispel myths and allay fears about the vaccines.

Cutler said the Torah talks about guarding life, which means taking care of health. One way to do that is by getting vaccinated, he said, adding he doesn’t see any conflict between religion and science.

Religious concerns about COVID-19 vaccines have been raised around the world. Questions vary by faith, with Muslims pondering whether the shots are considered halal under Islamic law and Catholics raising concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which they say is produced using tissue cultures from an aborted fetus.

Johnson & Johnson has not disputed those claims, but has said there is no fetal tissue in its COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite the questions, many religious leaders are actively encouraging their followers to get immunized.

Zahir Bacchus, the imam of the Jamiat ul Ansar mosque in Brampton, Ont., said one of the principles of Islam is to prevent harm to others.

“So from a moral standpoint, from an ethical standpoint in our faith, taking a vaccine will prevent that harm, you know, serious harm to another person,” he said.

Bacchus said he has been asked if the vaccines are halal and if it’s OK to take a shot that used tissue cultures from aborted fetal cells.

“Sometimes preservation of life takes precedence over preservation of the religion, or a rule of the religion like a dietary restriction or dietary rule,” he said.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has also weighed in on the issue, saying its advice is based on the fact that Canadians have no choice as to which vaccine they receive.

“Catholics in good conscience, may receive the vaccine that is available and offered to them,” it said in a statement issued earlier this month.

The Vatican took a similar stance in December, saying “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses” in the research and production process when “ethically irreproachable” vaccines aren’t available.

One health sciences researcher at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University said cell lines or tissue cultures that come from aborted fetal cells have historically been used to produce a variety of vaccines, including those for rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis A.

Ralph Pantophlet said such material is generally used during the trial stages of a vaccine or a drug.

“It does not mean that the products from that cell line end up in the final drug or vaccine — or whatever it is that you’re making — that is given to people,” he said.

The companies behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines have all said their products are halal, noting both shots were developed using tissue cultures derived from human embryonic cells in the 1970s.

Ananya Tina Banerjee, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana school of public health, said there is an urgent need for public health officials to work with “trusted messengers” to reduce vaccine hesitancy.

There’s a connection between spirituality, valuing the human body, protecting humanity and the health and well-being of everyone, she said.

“And we know faith-based leaders are highly, highly relied upon. I think that’s why they can play a strong role in really helping (followers) be confident in becoming vaccinated.”

She also suggested using places of worship as vaccination centres where health-care professionals of that specific faith administer shots to like-minded recipients.

Cutler and Bacchus would welcome opening their doors as vaccination centres, and not just for their own communities.

Banerjee said people may feel comfortable being vaccinated in a place where they sense they’re connected to a higher being.

“I think, you know, temples, gurdwaras, mosques, churches and synagogues really do serve as vital and trusted points of access for particular racialized immigrant and refugee communities and other communities as well,” she said.

“Actually, they are a natural partner to provide information about the vaccine and deliver a wide scale vaccination program.”

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Ng (left) tries to get the attention of Podzol and Aquila as twin sister, Pauline Ng, snaps a photo of the two dogs by a field of hyacinths at the Chilliwack Tulips attraction on April 13. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS: Strolling through tulips, hyacinths and daffodils at Chilliwack Tulips attraction

Colourful spring flower attraction opened on the weekend in Chilliwack, continues into May

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read