by Indradyumna Swami
In light of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting development of COVID-19 vaccines, many of my students have inquired whether they should get vaccinated or not.
As a result, I wish to share my views on this issue with my students and those who look to me for advice. Of course, the final decision whether or not to get vaccinated rests with each individual. After consulting several devotee doctors who have literally saved my life on five separate occasions (three instances of deadly forms of cancer and two instances of septicemia), I decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as I could.
These devotee doctors are highly educated, caring and experienced medical professionals. I am a layman in medical matters who would rather put my faith in them than in the unfounded anti-vaccination conspiracy theories that abound.
I am no stranger to vaccines, or to put it bluntly: I am alive today because I got vaccinated. As a young boy, I was vaccinated with a precursor to the current vaccination for meningitis. When meningitis raged through my neighborhood and school, I contracted a less severe case of the disease because I had been vaccinated. As a result, I survived. Three boys in my school who did not get vaccinated were not as fortunate. They died.
When poliomyelitis (polio), a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease, broke out in the 1950s, my parents had me vaccinated for that too. Steven Rushmore, a friend who lived down the street, didn’t get vaccinated. His parents were skeptical about the polio vaccine. Steven was subsequently infected with the polio virus and left permanently paralyzed.
In 1995, I was on my way to preach in Mozambique while that country was in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic. I was advised to get vaccinated, but the vaccination sounded scary. Being uncertain, I consulted my godbrother, Pusta Krishna Das (Paul Dossick, MD, FACS), who had been Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary in South Africa. I asked Pusta Krishna Das if Srila Prabhupada had ever gotten vaccinated against yellow fever in order to preach in Africa. Pusta Krishna Das confirmed that Prabhupada had. So I did too. Pusta Krishna Das also mentioned that Prabhupada had gotten vaccinated against the flu on several occasions.
For me, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a matter of common sense. Yes, there may be mild reactions to the vaccines and even severe reactions in rare cases, but these are the exceptions to the rule. What is much more dangerous is that COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than 2.5 million people in the past year. And there are more than 110 million people who have become infected with COVID-19. Who can imagine how high the final death toll will be?
I agree with the doctors and scientists that if a significant percentage of us get vaccinated, we will be able to get back to living a “normal life.” And when normal life resumes, Lord Caitanya’s saṅkirtana movement can get back into full swing, curing people of the real disease, forgetfulness of Krishna.
PS: Dear devotees, I am well aware there are other opinions. That is why I wrote the decision whether or not to get vaccinated rests with each individual. I have made my position very clear. But I must add, with all due respect, that I don’t want my Facebook page to become a forum of debate on this issue.