Faith and science: Religious leaders and medical professionals work to boost vaccine rates

Held once every eight years, the assembly will this time work towards encouraging representatives of faith and science to work together and fight future pandemics.

 Prof. Avraham Steinberg in booth at conference in Germany. (photo credit: J. MECHECKA)
Prof. Avraham Steinberg in booth at conference in Germany.
(photo credit: J. MECHECKA)

The Jerusalem Impact Vaccination Initiative (JIVI), an international collaboration of medical professionals and faith leaders to promote tailor-made messaging and efforts related to immunization drives, is being outlined on Friday at the three-day World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Karlsruhe, south-western Germany.

Held every eight years, the assembly will this time work toward encouraging representatives of faith and science to work together in the fight against future pandemics. Some 5,000 participants will attend.

Since JIVI was founded two years ago, it has gained recognition for its unique and well received process of bringing together science and faith to reach as wide an audience as possible for vaccination efforts. Its success has been recognized by national leaders including President Isaac Herzog, who, when hosting the initiative at his residence earlier this year, said: “There is no replacement for religious leadership, which has an immense influence on the public. I give this effort my full support.”  

“There is no replacement for religious leadership, which has an immense influence on the public. I give this effort my full support.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog

JIVI chairman Dr. Inon Schenker – a global public health specialist who has managed major multi-faith health initiatives in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America – said the consortium wants to use its unique experience and knowledge gained from successes in Jerusalem to support vaccination efforts in getting vaccines into the arms of people, not just into a country. He added that the potential of faith groups has not yet been sufficiently tapped in the planning and execution of vaccine rollouts, including COVID-19 and monkeypox.

 The COVID-19 vaccine (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY) The COVID-19 vaccine (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)

The Jerusalem experience in mobilizing collaborations of faith and public health leaders when vaccinating a whole nation against COVID-19 is being adopted now in other countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa.

Where is the JIVI event being held?

Other Israelis attending the event include Benjamin Golbert of Meuhedet Healthcare Services and Prof. Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, a Jewish ethics expert and senior pediatric neurologist at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, an Israel Prize laureate in 1999. Dr. Lilian Blum, a family physician who was born in Brazil and after moving to Israel, became a regional director in Maccabi Health Services and a consultant to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on digital health and multicultural health care. She also initiated a program on diabetes prevention in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

 Workshop at JIVI. (credit: Courtesy) Workshop at JIVI. (credit: Courtesy)