The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt around the world. During the course of the pandemic American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) have experienced a disproportionate disease burden compared to other populations in the U.S. In late 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 vaccines, which have been a promising and important tool in the fight to end the pandemic. Tribes across Indian Country have work diligently to vaccinate their citizens and have high vaccination rates, however there are some that remain unvaccinated. Some of the vaccine hesitancy may be due to religious or spiritual beliefs. Faith leaders across the world have spoken up about the COVID-19 vaccines.
On January 10, 2022, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State since 2013 urged countries, including the U.S. to vaccinate their populations. Pope Francis stated getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a “moral obligation” as part of caring for the health of oneself and others. Similar comments have been made in Indian Country.
Chuck Sams, COVID-19 incident commander, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation mentioned that, “Our religious leaders said it’s not a time to be selfish. We’re going to have to give things up so that we can continue to practice them after the disease has moved away,” from Alex Brown, “In Hard-Hit Indian Country, Tribes Rapidly Roll Out Vaccines”, pewtrusts, February 9, 2021.
To support Indian Country’s vaccination efforts, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) developed the Act of Love campaign. Getting vaccinated and helping to protect elders, young children, and other who cannot receive the vaccines is an Act of Love, because combatting COVID-19 is a group effort. “Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease,” Pope Francis added.