Covid-19 Vaccination – Safe, Effective, Needed!

A screen shot of members of the last Tuesday’s town Hall “Faith, (Mis)Trust and Covid-19” (upper row) Dr. Florence Monplaisir, MD, Penn Med; Rev. Cean James, Salt and Light Congregation (MC of the panel); Rev. Dr. Donna Lawrence Jones, Cookman, Beloved Comm. Church; (lower row)Rev. Bertram Johnson, Union Theological Seminary, New York; Khadijah Abdullah, Reaching all HIV+ Muslims in America.  On the panel but not in the photo:  U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans; Imam Quaiser Abdullah, PhD, Temple University; and Dr. Carmen Guerra, MD, Penn Med.
A screen shot of members of the last Tuesday’s town Hall “Faith, (Mis)Trust and Covid-19” (upper row) Dr. Florence Monplaisir, MD, Penn Med; Rev. Cean James, Salt and Light Congregation (MC of the panel); Rev. Dr. Donna Lawrence Jones, Cookman, Beloved Comm. Church; (lower row)Rev. Bertram Johnson, Union Theological Seminary, New York; Khadijah Abdullah, Reaching all HIV+ Muslims in America. On the panel but not in the photo: U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans; Imam Quaiser Abdullah, PhD, Temple University; and Dr. Carmen Guerra, MD, Penn Med.

Local doctors & clergy say:  “Consult someone you trust!”

By Ted Behr

“It’s OK to wonder… It’s OK to be concerned about the Covid-19 vaccines,” confided Imam Quaiser Abdullah, PhD, Asst. Professor at Temple University.  “But each of us should find someone we can trust and lean into them!  

“Sit down with a doctor or a nurse or practical health provider or someone in the community who can speak with authority,” added Rev. Bertram Johnson of Union Theological Seminary in  New York .  “Get them to take the time to answer your concerns and dispel some of the rumors that are going around.”

The unanimous theme at last Tuesday’s “Town Hall” regarding the Covid-19 vaccines now being injected into tens of thousands of health professionals and vulnerable frontline workers was: 

  –  Vaccines for the pandemic virus are safe and effective

  –  The vaccine can’t “cause” a virus infection

  –  Side effects from injections are mild and short term

These were the views strongly expressed by the two doctors who were part of the virtual panel zoomed last Tuesday evening.   Dr. Florence Momplaisir, MD, Asst. Professor, Univ. of Pennsylvania noted that although promoted as a “Warp Speed” development, the scientific community had been laying the groundwork for the approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for years.”  When conducted and funded by the Pharm companies, she pointed out the testing of new drugs involves three stages (animals, limited human trials for safety, and broad testing of the effectiveness). 

“Usually, these stages run end-to-end and take years,” offered Dr. Carmen Guerra, Vice Chair of Diversity and Inclusion, at Penn Department of Medicine.  To save time, because the vaccines were needed to save thousands of lives, the U.S. Government accepted the financial risk of running all three phases almost simultaneously.  And fortunately for all the people at risk of the deadly virus, panels of experts and the U.S. (and other) Food and Drug Administration scientists have found the vaccines work and are safe.  

The public naturally has concerns – some reasonable, and others which are simply negative rumors.   For faith leaders who are consulted about whether to take the vaccines,  Rev Dr. Donna Lawrence Jones, Cookman, Beloved Comm. Church advised them to take a “Chaplain approach:” find out what the fears or reservations are and refer persons to a trustworthy authority who can answer questions honestly and with authority.

The Town Hall was entitled “Faith, (Mis)Trust and & Covid-19: An Honest Community Conversation” and sponsored by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the CoVPN Faith Initiative.  It included members of Philadelphia’s faith communities and U.S. Representative Dwight Evans.   It was hosted by Rev. Cean James, pastor of the Salt and Light Congregation in Southwest and Director of the CityLights Network. 

The town hall addressed a broad range of community concerns about being vaccinated, and how  government distribution plans affect Black communities in Philadelphia.  The full broadcast can be viewed by accessing:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/7816073627287/WN_exQcrsZvQS6CkhZhe2BU2w

U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans affirmed that overall, “the distribution of the vaccines will be equitable and reach people based on need.  Congress will be vigilant and will address the justifiable concerns of minorities.”  He stressed that “We have a lot to do to overcome the deepest concerns.  The new administration of President Elect Joe Biden will not magically alter the situation, but will focus on people in the cities who have to work to live.”

Khadijah Abdullah, Reaching all HIV+ Muslims in America mentioned a number of reliable resources that people could consult for factual information and updates:

WHO – World Health Organization: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

CDC – Center for Disease Control (USA):  www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

DPH –  Philadelphia Department of Health: www.phila.gov/programs/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/

PA DPH – Pennsylvania Department of Health:   www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx

“For most of us it may be a long, dark tunnel.  Thank God we have people of faith who care for us… who will walk with us, hand in hand, as we journey forward together to the light.”     A Southwest Resident.

Vaccines:  Light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. 

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