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Dear Fort George/Lighthouse community,  

The leadership of our church wants to express how much we miss you and long for the time we can worship together again.  Those days are coming, but they aren’t right now.  The following letter seeks to bring you up to speed on where we are as a church in the midst of COVID-19.  

As a leadership team we decided early in the course of the pandemic that we would follow the advice of the Canadian health authorities.   

On January 20th Canada’s top health professional, Dr. Tam, met with over 1300 faith leaders from across the country via Zoom.  During this call she gave information about the vaccine roll out and answered as many of the questions we brought to the floor as she was able.  I had the opportunity to be part of that call, took notes, and look forward to sharing what I learned with you.   

We will continue to keep you updated as changes to these policies arise, particularly as they affect our ability to meet together.  

Hang in there brothers and sisters.  Jesus is in control, and He will bring us through.  

Standing with you in the advance of the gospel,  

Pastor Dan  

General information about the vaccines from Dr. Tam as per Zoom call on January 20, 2021. The goal of the vaccine program is that every Canadian who wants the vaccine will have free access to it by September 2021.   

Currently children under 12 are not being vaccinated and those who are pregnant or have otherwise complicated health situations should consult their doctors prior to getting vaccinated.  These recommendations may change as more information is made available.   

Questions Dr. Tam addressed:  

How can we be sure the vaccine will be safe as it was produced so quickly? Health Canada is the organization that has certified the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines safe for Canadian use.  Health Canada has some of the highest standards of safety in the world and is known for its robust monitoring systems.   

Dr. Tam said that while this is by far the fastest vaccine production and rollout she has ever witnessed, advances in technology as well as massive financial support, and global cooperation have enabled the producers of the vaccine to do all the things they normally do to oversee the safe production of a vaccine, but at a rapid rate.  For example, many of the tests that would normally run back-to-back were able to be run concurrently.  And even before they had developed the vaccine, companies like Pfizer had already begun ramping up their production facilities.   

Health Canada will also continue to monitor the vaccine rollout as more people receive vaccines and they are committed to detecting and handling any problems that arise.  

Are there any side effects to receiving the vaccine? In vaccine research side effects are dealt with on a few different levels.  

Level 1: All vaccines have some non-serious side effects.  This means patients can expect some or all of the following side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine: pain around the injection site, tiredness, low grade fever, swollen lymph nodes.  These side effects are considered “normal.”   

Level 2: Some people experience allergic reactions to vaccines, and some people have experienced reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines.  These reactions generally happen immediately following the injection and so people are advised to wait on site where they received the vaccine for several minutes following their injection.  This way any allergic reaction can be handled.  

Level 3: Some people experience more serious side effects.  The clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine included 10’s of thousands of people.  Some serious side effects were noted in a very small percentage of the test cases.   

Then, as of January 8th 338,000 people in Canada had been vaccinated.  Of these there have been 24 adverse situations caused by the vaccine, 10 of these situations have been considered serious.  While each of these situations has been very significant to the people involved because it is an incredibly small percentage of the total vaccinations Health Canada has concluded that the risks are worth the benefits to the total population and so has continued to consider the vaccine “safe.”  

Are some of the more serious side effects of the vaccine being covered up? There are several reports on social media about serious side effects of the vaccine including death.  Dr. Tam’s response was that currently most of the vaccines have been administered to very elderly patients living in long term care facilities.  And yes, it is true that some of these patients have gone on to have heart attacks or have even died in the days following their vaccination.  However, each of these events have been studied carefully, and the conclusion is that these adverse situations were not linked to their having received the vaccine.  Often elderly people in care homes experience adverse health conditions and it was circumstantial that they had recently received the vaccine.  

Who will be offered the vaccine first, and when can I expect to be vaccinated? There is a three-tier rollout for the vaccine in Canada.  We are currently in the first tier of the rollout which includes those most at risk of severe complications to COVID-19 as well as those who could transmit COVID-19 to high-risk people, and those who might get COVID-19 at work.   

If you are interested in finding out when you might receive a vaccine you can click the link below and enter some information into the COVID-19 Queue Calculator.  (I did this and it said I will be pretty much the last person vaccinated and I should expect to be vaccinated by early September 2021 ;)  

Will you release the ingredients of the vaccine so faith groups can make decisions about whether they should be taken? Yes, this has already happened.  You can look these ingredient lists up online.  Most of the ingredients involve chemical chains, and there are no fetal cells and no animal products used in either the Pfizar or Moderna vaccines.   

When can we start regathering for worship? Not right now.  While these kinds of decisions are made by local health authorities, we still have many months of mask wearing and handwashing in front of us.  And even once people have been vaccinated the current recommendation is to continue practicing social distancing for a time.  This is because while the vaccine will protect you from the dangers of COVID-19, we don’t know yet if vaccinated people can pass on COVID to others.  We will know this in the future, but at this point we just don’t know.   

The good news is all pandemics come to an end.  And we know that the social distancing and hand washing we are doing is working because it has all but eliminated the flu from Canada this year.  So please hang in there and continue to follow the guidelines of the local health authorities as we fight COVID-19.  

I hope this information has been helpful to you.  We will continue to pass on relevant information as it is received and pertains to church.  God bless you.  

Pastor Dan