The COVID-19 crisis is not over, but “these vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel,” Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt told more than 2,100 people on Zoom and YouTube on motzei Shabbat. His remarks were viewed more than 6,000 times by mid-week.
You’d be “out of your mind if you didn’t take this vaccine as soon as you can get it,” he said, emphasizing that “it is absolutely impossible for you to get Covid from this vaccine.”
Meanwhile, until the vast majority of people are vaccinated, mask wearing and social distancing remains necessary, he said, even for those who are vaccinated. While a vaccinated person who is exposed to Covid is unlikely to get the disease themselves, “we don’t have enough data to show that they can’t spread the disease,” he added.
Those who doubt that the crisis is not yet over “need to come to my hospital and see what it looks like to have Covid [and] see, nebach, how many people right now are in hospitals dying, how many people we have on ventilators right now — I’m not talking about back in March, April or May — this is continuing to be a huge problem.”
In warning against letting our guards down, Dr. Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau and assistant rabbi at YI of Woodmere, recounted the pandemic’s early days.
“You shouldn’t have to see such a thing. Back in March, April and May every hospital had to hire refrigerated trucks — not single, plural, at every hospital — to hold the bodies of patients who died from Covid because funeral parlors couldn’t handle them.”
Today, people who contracted Covid at Purim and Pesach still haven’t fully recovered. he said.
“Are you going to weigh that against the theoretical one-in-a-million chance that maybe something will happen with this vaccine? From both a medical and a halachic point of view there’s a mitzvah to take care of your health.”
As he’s been doing since the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Glatt drew a connection between halacha and medicine.
“Halacha requires you to follow the best medical advice,” he said, citing Rambam as an example. “The Rambam is greater than the greatest rabanim today but he’s not greater than the greatest doctors. And the halacha says you follow the medical experts. The gedolim need to ask the medical experts what to do and the gedolim follow that halacha.”
He suggested that we recite a blessing before receiving the vaccine (from Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim, 230) that thanks Hashem, healer of the sick — in this instance, he added, for “allowing us to have this wonderful vaccine, that it should be successful and a cure to all.”
Limitations placed on our lives by the pandemic won’t last forever, he said. “This is something that will go away when we get the vast majority of the population vaccinated.”