By, Karif Lawrence, Interim Pastor of Southside Community Church

OPINION (CBM) – Faith and science are not opposing forces: they are two sides of the same coin that have saved countless lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccinations that are protecting Californians as we enter the third year of battling this deadly virus are nothing short of miraculous and have given Christians new meaning to the edict to “love thy neighbor” by helping their community and themselves stay safe and healthy.

As we reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice during Lent and prepare to celebrate Easter with our congregations, friends and loved ones, let’s continue to do our part as good neighbors and Christians to protect our family, friends and selves from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and boosted.

For two years, Californians have led with kindness and understanding on our united mission to prevent additional COVID-19 cases and keep our loved ones safe. This Easter, we look forward to seeing many congregation members in person, some for the first time since the pandemic began.

But even though California recently moved forward from most public health restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic with the state’s SMARTER Plan, it remains critical to continue practicing the measures that we know work and have helped lower case rates as we resume activities, visit with family and friends and go to work and school. We know that vaccination remains the best tool against COVID-19 and getting eligible family members ages 5 and older vaccinated and boosted protects them from the worst outcomes of COVID-19.

Vaccinations have helped us overcome the most recent surge and see infection levels decline, especially for our kids who have experienced tremendous stress, put their young lives on hold and patiently waited to fully resume their daily routines. Children remain susceptible to COVID-19. More than 700,000 children and adolescents in California have been infected with COVID-19. There have been more than 6,500 pediatric hospitalizations in our state since July of last year, and we have lost 38 young lives since the start of the pandemic. Children can also experience “long COVID,” and the virus can also cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), in which a hyperactive immune system attacks the child’s body.

According to the California Department of Public Health, comprehensive clinical trials in more than 4,500 children ages 5-11 demonstrate that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in this age group, resulting in strong antibody responses in children who received the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine was found to be safe for children ages 5-11, with only mild side effects like fatigue, fever and headache. My own neice has recieve the vaccination and has no lasting side affects.

In addition, while wearing masks in public is no longer mandated, it is still strongly recommended by state health officials and is required in healthcare facilities, public transit, long-term care facilities and other high-transmission settings.

Protecting our kids from COVID-19 provides parents, and pastors, peace of mind as we get back to in-person activities and spend more time with the ones we love. When you are ready to get your child or yourself vaccinated, you can visit MyTurn.ca.gov or call 833-422-4255 to schedule an appointment. Help is available in more than 200 languages.

Antioch Progressive Church will also hold a vaccine clinic just ahead of the Easter holiday on Saturday, April 16 from 10am-2pm. The church is located at 7650 Amherst St., Sacramento, CA 95832, and the event is open to the public.

This spring, let’s take solace in knowing that getting our eligible family members vaccinated or boosted can protect them from the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization and even death. By taking these precautions and gaining protection, we can safely celebrate a joyous Easter with our family, friends and congregation together once again.

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