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My brother’s keeper

Biblical teaching recalls a time when earthly elements were used by a nation of people to fight off a disease (virus or plague). Exodus 12:7-10 (ERV) says to us:

“You must collect the blood from these animals and put it on the top and sides of the doorframe of every house where the people eat this meal. On this night you must roast the lamb and eat all the meat. You must also eat bitter herbs and bread made without yeast. You must not eat the lamb raw or boiled in water. You must roast the whole lamb over a fire. The lamb must still have its head, legs, and inner parts. You must eat all the meat that night. If any of the meat is left until morning, you must burn it in the fire.”

So, why is there so much mistrust of medicine being used amongst minorities as we face this pandemic?

We have all heard the statistics: Black people are dying of coronavirus at an alarming rate that is about 2.5 to 3 times higher than other groups.

We have also heard that Black people are hesitant to get the vaccines. Although vaccination rates in the Black community are rising, many people I talk with are yet:

• worried about the side effects

• concerned that the vaccines were developed too quickly and

• have a general mistrust of the cultural divide being accentuated over the last five years.

These worries are understandable.

Why?

The minority communities are also fully aware of:

• Tuskegee

• Henrietta Lacks

• the headlines about the mathematics used to allocate resources to critically ill patients, which have been shown to underestimate the needs of critically ill Black patients.

And minorities know that COVID-19 is not an equal opportunity virus. Indeed, it has shined a spotlight on America’s pandemic of inequality. Everything we know thus far confirms that its burden falls too much on low-income communities and communities of color, especially the Black community.

So, let’s look at the facts. To end the pandemic and protect vulnerable people, we need to vaccinate 70-90 percent of the population so that the disease cannot continue to spread and develop new variants. Vaccination is the key to protecting our families and community. We can overcome this crisis, but it will require trusting the science and taking care of each other.

For those who are worried about how fast the vaccines were developed or are taking a “wait and see” attitude, there is encouragement in statistics. Thousands of people of all races participated in the clinical trials and more than half the U.S. population has received at least one dose. Serious side effects have been extremely rare. The risk of serious illness and death from the virus is far greater than the risk of serious side effects from the vaccine. Even though the COVID vaccines were developed fast, they didn’t skip safety steps in the process. What was cut was some of the red tape. Each vaccine still had to meet the rigorous safety standards of the FDA before being approved for emergency use against COVID.

For those who are leery of the history of the medical establishment, ask your physician to make available the vaccine he or she took.

Also, I encourage you to go to friends and family, who have already received the vaccine, and discuss their vaccination experience with them. While there, consider discussing any anxiety you may have about getting the vaccine.

As a pastor, I must say to you, Christians should not fear science. The Apostle Paul identifies Luke as a physician and mentions him in several of his letters, each time referring to him as a physician. Luke is often referred to as “the beloved physician.”

I also know that your time is precious, but it is easy to get the vaccine. Walk-ins without an appointment are welcome at local pharmacies and River Valley Health and Dental, and there will be a mobile vaccination unit at the Juneteenth Celebration in Brandon Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 19.

Getting vaccinated is how we can protect the most vulnerable in our community — newborns, young children, the elderly and those with serious medical conditions. I got vaccinated to protect my family, congregation, strangers I may gather with, city and community; remembering Jesus’ teaching which emphasized what we do for the poorest and most needy in our midst, we do for Jesus.

Also remember being our “brother’s keeper” and assisting the less fortunate is accentuated in Christian teachings.

Serious diseases such as viruses or plagues are not new. Elisha, a man of olden times, used an earthly substance, “water,” from the Jordan river to cure a serious skin ailment called leprosy.

In the trying times of this pandemic, I ask of you: please “help protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Consider getting vaccinated to protect the members of your family and our community.

The Rev. Samuel Washington is senior pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Williamsport.

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