Good morning fellow bloggers and casual readers! I am grateful to be in the position to commission other creators in an effort to provide content. And I am so thankful for Ramsha the Great, in her expert and skillful writing as a open contributor to my blog. The following is her piece in total. And dude you can now listen to it because it is now available through Anchor Podcasting! Although I wish the voice over sounded more like Issa Rae or Jenifer Lewis!
Written by Ramsha, Pakistan
Edited by Felicia M. Baxter MD MBA
Role of religious leaders in global vaccination efforts
Politicians in general, have acquired a bad reputation, the word “politician” itself has become synonymous with commonly held notions of power, corruption, manipulation, etc. Their word is usually taken with a grain of salt, at times even by those who elect them, in comparison, the word of religious leaders, in general, is more believable as communities consider them key thought leaders and so they can sway the public opinion either positively or negatively to a greater extent.
This is not an abstract generalization, however, as evident by the pivotal role of religious leaders worldwide in urging their followers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, indeed, this is a common phenomenon in the first and third world alike. To illustrate this, a brief overview of their aforementioned role is discussed below, in the context of the United States and Asia, primarily in India to account for varied cultures, religions, traditions, and histories.
In the United States, in particular, Churches across the country have been playing their part in the fight against the novel coronavirus. A case in point would be how a considerable number of them have turned into vaccination sites where pastors encourage people to get these vaccines, especially in those communities which have had to bear the brunt of the economic and social fallout of the pandemic.
The efforts of prominent religious figures such as the serving vice president of the Orthodox Union (an extensive network of over 400 synagogues), Rabbi Moshe Hauer, are noteworthy in this regard as he called on state officials to collaborate with faith groups in the distribution of vaccines; which he referred to as America’s ticket out of the pandemic. He’s not alone in urging people to get vaccinated as a survey conducted by the pew research center last month revealed that almost 40% of clergy encouraged getting vaccinated, the same survey showed that more than 60% of churchgoers expressed confidence in paying heed to their clergy’s advice on the matter. The significance of these percentages is magnified when seen through the lens of the bigger picture; Christianity is by far the largest religion in the country therefore, the role of churches in country-wide vaccination efforts cannot be understated.
Similarly, in Asia, home to billions belonging to different religious and cultural backgrounds, local religious leaders, for the most part, have done what they can to raise awareness among the masses to get inoculated. This is apparent in India, the second-largest country in the region that symbolizes Asia’s rich diversity as a significant number of minority groups are a part of its population of over 1.3 billion people. And so, it’s running the world’s largest vaccination drive to get as many of these 1.3 billion inhabitants vaccinated as quickly as possible.
A nationwide campaign dubbed “Jaan Hai To Jahaan Hai” was launched in June this year as a part of this drive by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs for encouraging vaccinations, countering vaccine misinformation, and the resulting hesitancy among those that fall prey to such misinformation. Modest objectives aside, its composition was the defining factor in how successful it would be in achieving these objectives; Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, and Buddhist religious officials, all worked together and in consonance with experts belonging to various social fields to raise awareness about getting COVID-19 vaccines at the grass-root level and contribute towards making the world’s largest vaccination drive a success.
The above examples highlight how places of worship are commonly accepted to be entities whose advice can be trusted. Similarly, the advice of religious leaders in social matters is influential in shaping public opinion and in turn changing public behavior, fortunately, the influence they hold has been generally put to good use to combat the pandemic and the hurdles that lie in the way of global vaccination efforts, mainly being the public hesitancy which needs to be overcome for the success of any vaccination program.
 The role of religious leaders and faith communities – Health communication capacity collaborative – Social and behavior change communication. (n.d.). Health Communication Capacity Collaborative – Social and Behavior Change Communication – Social and Behavior Change Communication. https://healthcommcapacity.org/i-kits/role-religious-leaders-faith-communities/
 Mastroianni, B. (n.d.). These pastors are spreading the good news about the COVID-19 vaccine. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/these-pastors-are-spreading-the-good-news-about-the-covid-19-vaccine
 Most Americans would trust their clergy’s COVID-19 vaccine advice. (2021, October 15). Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. https://www.pewforum.org/2021/10/15/most-americans-who-go-to-religious-services-say-they-would-trust-their-clergys-advice-on-covid-19-vaccines/
 India population (2021). (n.d.). Worldometer – real time world statistics. https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/india-population/
 Covid vaccine awareness drive to begin tomorrow with help from Muslim clerics to fight ‘rumours’. (2021, June 20). ThePrint. https://theprint.in/india/governance/covid-vaccine-awareness-drive-to-begin-tomorrow-with-help-from-muslim-clerics-to-fight-rumours/681186/
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