The Church of Scotland has backed a statement from faith leaders encouraging people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
Rev Dr George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly, said it was essential that people protect both themselves and others by receiving the jab. Rev Whyte signed a statement alongside other faith leaders showing support for the vaccination programme which could see 400,000 people across Scotland given the vaccine every week by the end of February.
The statement reads:
“We urge all faith communities to take measures that will ensure their safety and the safety of others.
“Furthermore, we support the COVID-19 vaccination programme across the community and we encourage people to be vaccinated so that they keep themselves and their neighbours safe.”
The statement was signed by a wide range of faith leaders including Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops Conference of Scotland, Imam Hassan Rabbani, Imam of Zia-Ul-Quran Mosque, Muslim Chaplain at Heriot-Watt University, Chair of Scottish Muslim Forum, Imam Sayed Razawi, Chief Imam - Director General | Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, Dr Muhammad Rafiq Habib, Convenor, Muslim Council of Scotland, Rabbi Moshe Rubin, Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation, Senior Rabbi Of Scotland, and Most Reverend Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness; Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Church of Scotland has announced that its church buildings will be utilised as vaccination centres. The Scottish Government has said it is aiming to vaccinate care home residents, NHS staff and people over-80 by the first week of February. Those over the age of 70 would get the vaccine by mid-February and over-65 and vulnerable groups by March - this would result in more than 1.4 million people being given the jab.
Dr Whyte said: “The Church of Scotland is working with the Scottish Government to ensure that local churches continue to be part of the effort to suppress the Coronavirus outbreak by following the advice to stay at home as much as possible.
“We fully accept that the latest pandemic restrictions mean that we have to close churches again for the time being.
“While recognising that communal worship is an essential element of our faith, we also know that the Church remains present and active in our local communities even while buildings are closed.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that reopening churches will happen as soon as it can be done safely."
Dr Whyte said the vast majority of church members understand the necessity for the temporary restrictions but that people are also looking forward to the day when they can meet again in person.
“In the meantime, we are encouraged by the many church congregations across Scotland who are offering essential support - both spiritual and practical - to their local communities,” he added.