It has been an estimated three and a half months since Belize received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines. Since then several other shipments have arrived, but yet only a mere nineteen thousand one hundred and seventy-three persons have been vaccinated up to June 15. Health officials have attributed the low turnout to several factors including a large group of anti-vaxxers. Today, Reporter Vejea Alvarez takes a look into the views of the religious community on the idea of getting vaccinated.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The wild conspiracy theories are abundant surrounding the COVID19 vaccine including the idea that the vaccine may be the mark of the best referenced in the bible. The question in this segment is aimed at the religious community and their stance on whether to vaccine or not. We start with the Anglican Diocese. In speaking with Bishop Philip Wright we learned that he has been advocating and encouraging his congregation to get vaccinated. The Bishop says that his church has been an avid campaigner and has been disseminating the facts in the fight between faith and science.
Bishop Phillip Wright, Anglican Diocese of Belize: “Every week on Sunday we have a weekly service and we make sure we end that service by putting out this little statement. “We will remind people where your mask, wash your hands, keep your distance, avoid crowds.” and then we add this one “When it is your opportunity please go and get vaccinated.” So we are fully in line with the efforts to encourage every Belizean to get vaccinated and to help us overcome this COVID19 pandemic.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Interestingly the message of trusting the vaccine is not only being shared by leaders in the Anglican faith but also in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Belize. According to Naveed Mangla, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama ‘at Belize his faith has been given the directive for them to follow and trust the government.
Naveed Mangla, President, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama ‘at Belize: “We have been directed b the leader, the spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama ‘at that we should obey our government which is the same thing which is mentioned in the Holy Quran that we should always obey those that are in authority. And here as you know the government had been urging us to get vaccine not only are they urging the citizens but they themselves have received it too. So we have been preaching here at the mosque that those that can should get it particularly because we are fortunate being in Belize that the vaccinations are available. I know a lot of my personal friends that are living in South America and they do not have this, they’re willing to leave their country to go elsewhere to receive these vaccinations. So we’re fortunate.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Compared to many other nations Belize has been fortunate in having access to the COVID19 vaccines. The availability of the vaccine however seems to play no role in pushing the anti vaxxers to change their minds. The hesitance in getting vaccinated has been primarily highlighted among the teaching community. This is perhaps the reason why GAMAS has come into action. GAMAS is the body that represents denominational highschools around the country. According to Senator Bishop Alvin Moses Benguche of the Belize Council of Churches the members of GAMAS met and have been discussing how the church can play a greater role in encouraging educators to get vaccinated.
Bishop Alvin Moses Benguche, Senator, Belize Council of Churches: “There was a survey taken that the teachers were not or are still not up to par in so far as the vaccine is concerned and the survey did show that there is a level of concern for those who have not yet taken the vaccine. There are a number of reasons why some people have not yet done so but we thought that it was important to be able to encourage them. And so there are some things that we will do from the management of schools. We as managers of schools we want to ensure that we send out letters to the teachers encouraging them, not forcing them but encouraging them to take the vaccine.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: As it relates to other denominational churches in Belize the message seemed to be the same. The St.Martin De Porres Parish wrote on Facebook in response to an anti vaxxer saying “We believe the vaccine is a gift from God for us to help keep his people safe. We pray that all Christians will come and receive this gift to keep you and your family safe.”