On Sunday evening, April 25, Chazaq and UJA Federation hosted a virtual lecture on vaccines with Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, Chairman of the Department of Infectious Disease and Hospital Epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital.

The program began with an introductory statement by Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, rav of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. “I cannot impress enough the importance of getting vaccinated for the coronavirus. Imagine if people refused the polio vaccine in the 1950s and 1960s. We never would have conquered polio. We never would have conquered tuberculosis. We have a brachah called a vaccine today to rid ourselves of COVID. We must do it. It’s that simple.” He added that because of the Internet, people are exposed to convoluted ideas that are blatantly false. “I salute everyone on this program tonight for pushing this idea.”

Next, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt shared that “it’s truly pikuach n’fashos. We thank Hashem. He has given us the r’fuah for this tremendously difficult machalah. We have the potential to get out of it.” We were all in quarantine this time last year. We had l’vayos and shivahs on Zoom. We can’t fully change back to normal unless we all get vaccinated. There is too much spread of this illness. We see real life consequences. “We have potential to stop this epidemic in its tracks. Hashem helped us to discover several vaccines to help us go back to normal lives, if everybody follows the recommendations of 100 percent of the doctors of infectious disease. They all agree that the way out of the pandemic is the vaccines.”

He shared that it is distressing to see people being given misinformation. The g’dolim came out strongly recommending the vaccines and many said it’s an obligation. The State of Israel had a kiddush Hashem with the Pfizer vaccine roll out. “We absolutely must vaccinate everybody to get the full benefit.”

Hashem allowed all the different powers to come together in multiple countries and multiple organizations to produce vaccines at lightning speed. Most vaccines take five years. The COVID vaccines took under one year and no safety step was bypassed. Studies were done on animals and on humans. No step was skipped. Government funding began right away. This took years off normal production of vaccines. People are worried that the vaccines do not have FDA approval. The vaccines have emergency approval and they’ve gone through vigorous steps. “I did not recommend approval until they passed all of the safety steps.”

The misinformation that doctors were paid off is nonsense. The vaccines were produced in a normal, proper way and are unbelievably successful. We had two companies using new technology, and they each went through phase one, phase two, and phase three testing at the same time. Both vaccines tested separately and they came back with the exact same results. In both cases, after two doses and two weeks, nobody who received the vaccine died from COVID. Over 95 percent of people vaccinated did not contract COVID. This week, the six-month data is identical to the original data.

He noted how the borders are now open in Israel, and most of the population in Israel is vaccinated, especially the elderly. In the United States, also, we are seeing a reduction in illness. “We have to thank Hashem for allowing us this great scientific advance.”

Rabbi Dr. Glatt explained that most complications from the vaccine occur right after it is administered or within the first six weeks afterwards. There was one in 200,000 reactions and no one died from those reactions. He emphasized, “Think of how many lives have been saved because of the vaccine.”

He added that, according to Jewish law, we should all be taking the vaccine. Hashem gave the r’fuah for the machalah. It is scientifically impossible for MRA to impact DNA, he shared. It doesn’t work that way. “People have to understand science and the statistics.” We are living in a time when everyone is a judge.

He taught that even those who had COVID should get vaccinated as they are still at risk of contracting it again and spreading it. He emphasized, “We are all in this together.” He shared the famous mashal of the man in the boat who saws a hole under his seat. He only made the hole under his seat, but he doesn’t realize this impacts everyone on the boat. In the same way, not vaccinating has a negative effect on the community. “If you do something, it impacts others.” We must be machmir in saving lives. Hashem tells us to follow the expert medical advisors and to do our hishtadlus. We have a principle that Hashem protects us. “Taking the vaccine is an obligation to save oneself and all of society.”

The community thanks Chazaq and the UJA Federation for this powerful, informative program.

 By Susie Garber