ST. GEORGE — As COVID-19 vaccines became available in Utah for individuals aged 70 and older, eight senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which included church President Russell M. Nelson, received their first vaccination shots Tuesday.
Nelson, 96, along with his wife, the other two members of the First Presidency – presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring – along with members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and their wives, received their first shots from health care workers Tuesday morning. The state opened vaccine shots for seniors 70 and older this week following shots given to health care workers and first responders in the weeks prior.
The First Presidency, which constitutes the top leadership of the LDS church, issued a statement supporting the vaccinations.
“In word and deed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported vaccinations for generations,” the statement said. “As a prominent component of our humanitarian efforts, the Church has funded, distributed and administered life-saving vaccines throughout the world …. Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.”
It added: “The Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination.”
Nelson, who is a former surgeon and medical researcher, expressed his gratitude for the new vaccines in a post over Facebook in which he also called the vaccines a “literal godsend.”
With approval from our physician, my wife, Wendy, and I were vaccinated today against COVID-19. We are very grateful….
“We are thankful for the countless doctors, scientists, researchers, manufacturers, government leaders, and others who have performed the grueling work required to make this vaccine available,” Nelson wrote. “We have prayed often for this literal godsend.”
Due to his background, Nelson said he knows something about the effort involved in bringing the vaccines about and called it a “remarkable effort.”
“Producing a safe, effective vaccine in less than a year is nothing short of miraculous,” he continued. “I was a young surgeon when, in 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had developed a vaccine against the cruel and crippling disease of polio. I then watched the dramatic impact that vaccine had on eradicating polio as most people around the world were vaccinated.”
Responses to Nelson’s Facebook post have been mixed, with many people supporting the use of the vaccine, while others began to question whether Nelson was speaking for himself in getting the vaccine and not necessarily as the leader of the church who was counseling church members to get inoculated.
Other commenters wanted questions answered regarding the supposed contents of the vaccines and their alleged side effects.
The church has long-supported parents getting their children vaccinated and issued a statement concerning that support in 1978.
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