Humanist and Christian leaders have come together to urge as many people as possible to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The call is by Churches Together in England and the Scottish Church Leaders Forum on behalf of their around 60 member churches, and by prominent figures in the UK’s humanist movement. It is being made now that everyone over 30 has been offered the vaccine. It is vital that younger people get vaccinated, as even though they may be at less risk themselves, they may still present a risk to others. The call is also timed to coincide with the UK Government hosting the world’s first Global Vaccine Confidence Summit.
The humanist and Christian leaders have organised similar statements that are intended to better speak to people who share their own beliefs. The joint intervention underlines the importance of the vaccination campaign.
The humanist statement has been signed by 60 people, including high-profile humanists like Stephen Fry, Alice Roberts, Richard Dawkins, Sandi Toksvig, Jim Al-Khalili, and Polly Toynbee. It has also been signed by the Chief Executives of Humanists UK and Humanist Society Scotland, Coordinators of Wales Humanists and Northern Ireland Humanists, the Editor of New Humanist, and the officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. It reads:
As humanists we hold a wide variety of beliefs and don’t always agree about everything. But we are united in believing that it is essential that as many people as possible are vaccinated against Covid-19.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to our communities. It has led to significant loss of life and has caused vast disruption to everyone’s daily lives. It has disrupted weddings, other rites of passage, and sometimes meant that people have had to put their whole life plans on hold. The toll all this disruption has had on people’s mental health represents a growing crisis, as does the number of people falling into poverty.
We believe the vaccines authorised by the MHRA are the most significant way in which our society can control the pandemic, accompanied by widespread testing and isolation regimes. The vaccines may have been developed and approved for use at unprecedented speeds. But this is because of unprecedented upfront investment and collaboration. We believe they have been through the same rigorous approval processes that would be demanded of any medicine before it is authorised for general use. This includes double-blind randomised controlled trials and peer review. The evidence from those trials suggests that the vaccines are effective. The risks from contracting Covid-19 far outweigh any risks associated with some or all of them, depending on your age and underlying health conditions. That this is the case represents a towering scientific achievement.
Estimates vary on how many people would need to be vaccinated before coronavirus restrictions can be lifted entirely. But with new strains of the virus spreading more easily, it is clear that a large majority of adults need to be vaccinated. This includes those who are personally at low risk. This is because this contributes to the reduction in transmission of the virus. That, in turn, reduces the risk of further mutation of the strains of Covid-19 in the community.
As a result, we believe everyone who is medically able to be vaccinated against Covid-19 should take up the NHS’s offer of an injection. The NHS has advice on when it expects to be able to offer the jab to different sections of the population. This includes whether you are able to have the vaccine and legitimate medical exemptions. If you are not sure whether you are able to receive the vaccine, please consult your GP or consult nhs.uk.
With the vaccine, we can begin to imagine an end to the pandemic. The Government hopes to be able to offer all adults the vaccine by September. It is hoped that booster vaccines can be quickly developed to better deal with new strains, if they prove needed. But we believe we can only get there, and resume our daily lives as they were, if we all take up this call.
In terms of those who should not get vaccinated, the NHS specifies exemptions on its website. These include children, on whom the vaccines have not yet been fully tested, and those who have a legitimate medical exemption. This includes, for example, because they have had a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past. The vaccine regulator has also advised that those under 40 with no underlying health conditions should be offered an alternative vaccine to Oxford/AstraZeneca. This is due to reports of an extremely rare blood clotting problem. For everyone else, the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh any risk of clotting problems.
- Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK
- Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland
- Kathy Riddick, Coordinator, Wales Humanists
- Boyd Sleator, Coordinator, Northern Ireland Humanists
- Samira Shackle, Editor, New Humanist
Officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group:
- Crispin Blunt MP, Chair
- Baroness Bakewell DBE, Co-Chair
- Baroness Doreen Massey of Darwen, Secretary
- Alf Dubs, Treasurer
- Baroness Burt of Solihull, Vice Chair
- Clive Lewis MP, Vice Chair
- Tommy Sheppard MP, Vice Chair
- Jeff Smith MP, Vice Chair
- Lord Taverne QC, Vice Chair
- Rt Hon Lord Warner of Brockley PC, Vice Chair
Patrons of Humanists UK:
- Professor Alice Roberts, President
- Professor AC Grayling, Vice President
- Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS, Vice President
- Polly Toynbee, Vice President
- Dr Iolo ap Gwynn FRMS
- Sian Berry AM, Co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
- Professor Simon Blackburn FBA
- Sir David Blatherwick KCMG OBE
- Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS FMedSci
- Don Cameron BSc MA MIEE D.Eng FRSGS
- Dr Peter Cave
- Dr Helena Cronin
- Sir Richard Dalton
- Professor Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL
- Professor R.I.M. Dunbar FRAI FBA
- Zoë Fairbairns
- Kate Fox
- Professor Christopher French
- Stephen Fry
- Dr Alan Haworth
- Natalie Haynes
- Dr Michael Irwin
- Dr Christian S Jessen
- Warren Lakin
- Stewart Lee
- Kenan Malik
- Zoe Margolis
- Ian McEwan CBE FRSA FRSL
- Stephanie Merritt
- Diane Munday
- Lauren Nicklinson
- Professor Kate E Pickett, FRSA FFPH
- Professor Steven Rose
- Martin Rowson
- Michael Rubenstein
- Professor Wendy Savage
- Professor Stephen Smartt FRS
- Joan Smith
- Kate Smurthwaite
- Dan Snow MBE
- Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci FRCP FRSA
- Sandi Toksvig OBE
- Stephen Volk
- Professor Richard Wiseman
- Professor John Worrall
The Christian statement has been signed by Churches Together in England’s General Secretary, Rev’d Dr Paul Goodliff, on behalf of its 50 member churches, and Revd Dr John McPake, Secretary to the Scottish Church Leaders Forum, on behalf of its around ten members. Those include the major churches from the Anglican, Catholic, Presbytarian, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Orthodox, and Lutheran traditions, as well as Free Churches, Quakers and others.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:
‘The UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been a tremendous success. But if we are to have any hope of lifting Covid restrictions entirely, we need a large share of the population to be vaccinated. There is clearly therefore further to go. Some younger people may be hesitant to get vaccinated due to being at less personal risk from the virus, and concerns around blood clots. But our simple message is that they should still take up the jab offered to them. This is the best way to save lives and potentially bring the pandemic to an end.’
Churches Together in England General Secretary Rev’d Dr Paul Goodliff commented:
‘People of goodwill and with a concern for the welfare of the most vulnerable in society quite properly collaborate together in commending vaccination as the most significant tool in the fight with Covid pandemic. Christians widely support the vaccination programme, as do humanists, and both share a concern for the common good.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
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