Is the Pfizer vaccine effective? Is it safe? Why is it so important to vaccinate a high proportion of the population? Canon Mark answers these and other vaccination questions.

“One of the punishments I suffered as a student, was to stay behind after school, scrabble around for 20 or 30 popsicle sticks in the school grounds and return them to the Deputy Headmaster before being excused. It’s possible that this experience made me rather impatient with littering.

But littering involves a paradox. If we all thought our one, insignificant piece of litter made no difference to the environment, soon enough, our streets and countryside would be awash with rubbish. So it’s clear that our personal and private choices do affect the lives of others and indeed the whole community and nation.

Now the big news coming out of the Beehive currently, is the importance of having the Pfizer jab. And the message is clear; if we don’t want to see hundreds of kiwis dying of Covid, we can either have frustrating, psychologically exhausting and economically damaging lockdowns or we can do our absolute best, one New Zealander at a time, to get our country vaccinated. Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has publicly stated that achieving a 90% vaccination rate for eligible New Zealanders is ‘mission critical.’

But how do we know the vaccine is effective and safe? According to the New Zealand Catholic website, which itself is informed by the best science available, the Pfizer vaccine is 90% effective in protecting people from Covid-19.

However in very rare cases, following vaccination, some people develop inflammation of the heart muscle, a condition known as ‘myocarditis’. Last month New Zealand specialists reported the death of a woman with this condition following vaccination. Although the Coroner is yet to make a ruling, the Independent Safety Monitoring Board noted that there were “medical issues occurring at the same time which may have influenced the outcome following vaccination.”

A study in Israel found that myocarditis occurred in 2.7 per 100,000 persons vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. At the end of August Australia had administered 8.2 million doses and no deaths had been reported. Clearly the benefits of vaccination overwhelmingly outweigh the risks.

I’ve heard of other fears. Some think that the vaccine will alter your DNA, be used by governments as a kind of mark or tracking device or even enable remote programming. All of these concerns are unfounded. For example it is not true that the vaccine alters your DNA. This is biologically impossible because the mRNA molecule in the vaccine cannot enter the nucleus of our cells which is where our DNA is located.

Mainstream Christian leaders all agree that receiving the vaccine will not only protect people from a deadly disease but is the very best way we can love our neighbours. National Leader of the Baptist Churches, Charles Hewlett said “For us our faith is about being prepared to give up our rights for another. It is very much about loving your neighbour.”

Nobel winning geneticist Francis Collins, devout Christian and Director of the Human Genome Project, has said “we do know [that] if we want to get this terrible pandemic to come to an end, it’s going to require all of us to get engaged in getting immune, and the best way to do that is with a vaccination.”

So why get vaccinated? Get vaccinated because it is the best way of avoiding sickness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Get vaccinated because it’s an act of solidarity and love for your neighbour. Get vaccinated because it will enable us to avoid repeated lockdowns which are so injurious to our mental, physical and economic health.

Like littering, some of our personal choices have ripples that run through our community and nation. What we may think of as a private, inconsequential matter, turns out to have serious public consequences. Developing herd immunity, only works if 90% or more of a population have been vaccinated. We all need to play our part. This will be the ultimate test of the Team of 5 million.