The head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has written to members of the faith saying that the church has no dogmatic or doctrinal position on vaccination.
Dermoth Baptiste, president, of the SDA Mission in SVG, however, said in an April 1 communiqué that he, his wife, and their daughter, a doctor, have taken the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Lest I be misunderstood, let me repeat myself, I am not the conscience for any one else. Each one must make a decision for himself in the best interest of personal health and safety and for the health and wellness of neighbours, communities and our nation,” Baptiste said in the two-page letter.
“The choice to immunise or not to be immunised is not and should not be seen as the dogma nor the doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Baptiste cited the Bible as saying that one’s body is Lord’s temple, and, as such, each person is tasked with protecting his or her body.
“It also says, love your neighbours as yourself. As we merge these Biblical truths, we can only conclude that during this Coronavirus Pandemic, we have the God designed responsibility of doing all we can to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbours from COVID-19,” he said.
Baptiste noted the on-going debate on the rolling out of various brands of vaccines and their efficacy or effectiveness in reducing or eliminating the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
He said that among the “body of literature, social media, the internet, news releases and even day to day discussions, we are bombarded with all kinds of positions, suggestions, dogmas, encouragements, theories of which some are conspiracy, relative to the effectiveness and side-effects of the vaccines.”
The cleric said that with the flow of information so easily available and the internet being a place where one would find the good, bad and ugly as well as truth, falsehood and alternate facts, “it behoves everyone of us to read for ourselves, study the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy writings, be acquainted with the authentic medical science and pray for discerning wisdom to make the right decision as to whether to take the vaccination or not.”
He said that many persons, within and outside of the SDA church have asked him what is the church’s position on vaccination.
“I, therefore, bring to you the following extract: ‘The Seventh-day Adventist Church places strong emphasis on health and well-being. The Adventist health emphasis is based on biblical revelation, the inspired writings of E.G. White (co-founder of the church), and on peer-reviewed scientific literature. As such, we encourage responsible immunization/vaccination, and have no religious or faith-based reason not to encourage our believers to responsibly participate in protective and preventive immunization programs. We value the health and safety of the population, which includes the maintenance of ‘herd immunity.’
“We are not the conscience of the individual church member, and recognize individual choices. These are exercised by the individual. The choice not to be immunized is not and should not be seen as the dogma nor the doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Baptiste did not cite the extract.
He said that with infected with COVID-19, and hundreds of thousands dead and are dying daily and with different waves or spikes increasing in various parts of the world, and the world being the global village, no one is safe until everyone is safe.
“As the world watches the extraordinarily rapid development process and rolling out of the vaccines, paired with local Ministry of Health dialogue and protocols on the topic, many Vincentians are drawing their own conclusions that contribute to hesitancy or even rejection of the vaccine.
“However, experts in vaccine safety who have studied the new COVID-19 vaccines find that they are safe and effective, meaning that the positives far outweighs the negatives,” Baptiste said.
“While I cannot say that the vaccine is a miracle cure for the virus, I can safely say that based on our understanding of the Bible and counsels in Spirit of Prophecy, I have no religious or faith-based reason not to encourage our members to responsibly participate in protective and preventive immunisation or vaccination programmes rolled out by the Ministry of Health,” Baptiste said.