The Vaccine Mitzvah

by Roselyn Allen, January 28, 2021

It’s been exactly a year since we heard of some new virus in China (it was a bit of an afterthought in the news, next to Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash). In February my husband, Chris, and I travelled to sunnier climes in the Caribbean and the lines at the airport were long as border agents in the Dominican Republic conducted extra screening. I had never been there, but my husband and other travellers around us assured me the wait to get through customs was never this long. Coming back into Canada wasn’t bad as we went through on Nexus and though we were cautious, we didn’t notice anything unusual.

I went to visit my dad in Nova Scotia on March 7th and we ended up with a stop in Ottawa. This was the first time I saw people wearing masks. The airport had an eerie quality with people obviously avoiding coming to close to one another.

For Purim at Solel, we thought we should take precautions in our celebrations. We could have everyone putting a napkin on serving pieces for hamantaschen, or just have one person serve everyone. We made sure the Purell dispensers were full and put up signs on the front door reminding recent foreign travellers to stay at home, and everyone else to wash their hands and cough into their sleeves.

Government officials told us not to worry and enjoy our March Break, but many of us cancelled travel plans as concern for this new and deadly virus and its connection to air travel became apparent. March Break was extended as the Ministry of Education tried to get its feet under itself in an effort to keep COVID at bay. At this point, a case mortality rate of up to 10% was believed to be possible. We closed the synagogue to prevent spread to our own members. Religion meets science in following studied methods to prevent transmission as we fulfill our duty to preserve life.

Since that time strides have been made in the treatment of COVID19, so the case mortality rate is much lower. New drugs, old drugs with a new purpose, therapies as simple as positioning a patient for optimal chance of recovery to the more intensive care available in units dedicated to COVID patients. Increased testing with improved sensitivities has followed.

And now we have a vaccine. I for one will be taking it as soon as it’s available to me. I have a few health concerns that put me at a slightly higher risk for complications, but more importantly I care for family at greater risk than me. I also consider it the highest mitzvah to protect not only my life, but the lives of my friends, family and the strangers all around me.

Some people are concerned about the speed at which the vaccines were developed and wonder if there might be adverse effects well into the future. To that I’d say you have to think of the creation of this vaccine like mail – Rush Delivery is as safe as any other postal service, it’s just been given priority. The technology behind the COVID vaccine has been studied for some time, but putting it into action for this particular disease was paramount. Government red tape was cleared away. Monies were diverted toward studying this disease and developing an affective vaccine.

This is not to say that 1) there aren’t other important diseases that shouldn’t be big priorities or that 2) the study of treatment and prevention for other diseases hasn’t suffered due to the diversion of resources to COVID. Truthfully, this crisis has brought a light to the fact that diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and others that cause millions of deaths in the poorest countries in the world could be tackled much faster without the hurdles of bureaucracy and financing blocking the way that we’ve seen eliminated with COVID. And there has been a toll with delayed diagnostic screening for common diseases (colon and breast cancers for example) and the impact quarantine has had on mental health has not yet been tallied.

So what does all of this mean to Solel Congregation of Mississauga? The sooner we go out and get our vaccines, the sooner Solel, Mississauga, Peel, Ontario, Canada and the world reach an immunity level sufficient to prevent spread of COVID19 in public settings (herd immunity). The sooner this happens, the sooner scientists can go back to studying other diseases (while likely facing the same old hurdles unfortunately).

We can go back to the synagogue – not this Purim, not this March Break, but maybe before High Holidays. We can see our lovely renovated lobby and bathrooms, maybe even give the new toilets and sinks a go. We can see our friends and neighbors together in our sanctuary. We may not be able to hug them, or share food this year, but maybe next. Our kids can go back to camp and attend Bet Sefer in person. We can see our new Torah being written. So please consider getting vaccinated when your turn comes. It’s a mitzvah.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Filed under: President's Message

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