By Indradyumna Swami
In light of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the 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 matter 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 and did so March 2, 2021. These devotee doctors are highly educated, caring and experienced medical professionals. As I am a layman in medical matters, I prefer to put my faith in such devotee doctors rather than in the unfounded anti-vaccination 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 of the vaccine. Steven subsequently contracted polio and was left permanently paralyzed.
In 1995, I was on my way to preach in Mozambique while that country was in the grip of yellow fever. I was advised to get vaccinated, but the vaccination sounded scary. Being uncertain, I consulted my godbrother, Pusta Krishna Prabhu (Paul Dossick, MD, FACS), who had been Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary. I asked Pusta Krishna if Srila Prabhupada had ever gotten vaccinated against yellow fever in order to preach in Africa. Pusta Krishna confirmed that Prabhupada had. So I did too. Pusta Krishna also mentioned that Prabhupada had gotten vaccinated against the flu on several occasions.
For me, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 was a matter of common sense. Yes, there may be mild reactions to the vaccine 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 may 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 saṅkīrtana movement can get back into full swing, curing people of the real disease, forgetfulness of Krishna.