Progressively Speaking: 20 million reasons to thank those in the vaccine rollout
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Progressively Speaking: 20 million reasons to thank those in the vaccine rollout

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers reflects on the amazing job key workers are doing in keeping people safe from Covid-19

Dr Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs, at Guy's Hospital in London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
Dr Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs, at Guy's Hospital in London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.

Last week, while I attended my vaccination appointment as a frontline key worker, I swiftly made my way through the various checks and carefully distanced queues. 

I was greeted by people from every part of our community, and of course many Jews from across the denominations. One happily demonstrated his Hebrew by reading out loud my mask: it was emblazoned with the Biblical command ‘V’ahavta re’achah c’mochah’ to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, while the man administering my painless dose of vaccine wore his black velvet kippah. 

Members of my own synagogue are volunteering at pharmacies and vaccine centres and helping us all to fulfil the command from Leviticus 19:19 I wore across my face that day.  

All these volunteers sacrificing their time and potentially their own safety means our entire local community is benefitting from a fairly rapid vaccine roll-out. 

There are still big gaps that need filling and I would love to have seen our kids’ teachers prioritised for the vaccine before they go back to school on Monday, but nationally we have hit a total of 20 million people who have been given their first dose of vaccine.  

The Biblical Temple relied on a system that encouraged social distancing if someone showed signs of illness. It also ensured those who served in the Temple – the Levites – who had no portion of land ascribed to them, could be looked after and fed by the sacrifices of the community. 

The Temple system tried to protect people and look after the vulnerable. We might want to do it a little differently today, but as we begin to see the world opening up, we must keep at the fore how we best love our neighbour.   

Vaccines are a crucial part of this, but not the only part. If we rush back to life as we knew it, particularly before everyone who is eligible has had both doses and before we know how truly effective it is, we may find ourselves back in the wilderness. 

I want to thank everyone in our little Jewish community helping to make our broader communities safer, whether by volunteering, getting vaccinated or continuing to wear masks and social distance. 

We have had quite a year and I hope we can all cross the finish line together without leaving behind the vulnerable. 

  •  Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers serves Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue

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