Clergy encounter with former Acting Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Borys Lushniak,
The Clergy of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, along with the members of the Chancery staff were invited to participate in a zoom meeting on Tuesday, February 23rd, entitled “Metropolitan Conference with Rear Admiral Dr. Boris Lushniak.” The zoom conference included such topics as: (1) Are the vaccines safe?, (2) Are there long-term side effects from the vaccines?, and (3) Is the life expectancy declining in the U.S.?
There have been more than 500,000 deaths reported in the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. What makes this pandemic so difficult to contain is that it is highly contagious. It quickly passes from person to person. There was a significant spike, increase in cases during the months of December and January. Nonetheless, Dr. Borys Lushniak tells us: “There is a ray of HOPE.” For the number of cases is presently decreasing. The numbers are coming down, but waiting to see if they continue that trend. Dr. Lushniak has a cautious optimism or hope.
People are reminded to do more of the same: wash hands, wear masks, practice social distancing, limit the capacity of attendance. Many have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Certain places lacked an adequate number of hospital beds. At first, the advice was given: “Stay at home.’ This led to people working at home, if possible. But often, limited work hours meant less income. Stimulus checks were sent out by the government, which helped, but still left many wanting. In recent days, it was reported that unemployment has drastically risen.
Not only have the elderly been affected, but also young, healthy persons. Some have even died. As of this day, there is no magic wand or medicine to receive that would take it away quickly or at once. And it seems that this pandemic is not going to simply go away on its own. Those in the medical profession have been working on a “vaccine.” According to the former Acting Surgeon General, globally 100 vaccines have been developed. Some have gotten approval; some have been rejected and not approved at this time.
In the United States, there are presently two vaccines that have been approved and are in use – vaccinating people. They are Pfizer and Moderna. Both are two doses and both have an efficiency of 94%. Other countries developing vaccines are India, Russia, and China.
Vaccines should be viewed as something positive and useful in bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control. Vaccines in the past have worked. Two examples are the vaccine for polio and the vaccine for measles. Time will reveal how effective they will be. Add to this situation, that two new strains of the coronavirus are reported: that from the United Kingdom and that from South Africa. It has not yet been determined whether the developed and approved vaccines will remedy these two new strains.
Nonetheless, Dr. Boris Lushniak ‘s advice is to get vaccinated. President Biden plans to have 300 million doses of the vaccine available by July of this year. Israel thus far has been pro-active in dispensing the vaccines to its citizens. (70% or more of the populace). In the United States, it’s already about 14%. But, Ukraine, as is much of Europe, is in “serious want” of the vaccine. Although some who have already received the vaccine may have experienced some “side effects,” they are “mild” and of “short duration.”
Archbishop Borys noted that at times we have experienced a “spike” in the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. The Archbishop questioned what may have the cause for these “spikes.” Did Americans not take the coronavirus illness seriously enough. Dr. Lushniak believes that it’s been at times “misinformation” and “hubris (human pride)”.
Bishop Paul Chomintsky of the Stamford Eparchy asked the question: “How often do we need to be vaccinated? Dr. Lushniak believes that it may be annual, but more likely occasional – the possibility of an occasional “booster shot.”
As to would we return to normalcy, when and to what degree? We just do not know for certain. Even with vaccinations, we may still be required to keep the suggested guidelines of washing hands, wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, and a limited capacity of attendance. It may be a gradual return to a type of “normalcy.”
There was also a question about “handshaking.” Handshaking has long been a normal gesture in greeting or welcoming another person. The former Surgeon General believes “the handshake” may return, but with some caution. The handshake may be extended to some, but necessary to all.
Bishop Bohdan Danylo of the St. Josaphat Eparchy in Parma, Ohio posed a question about the rescheduling of the Clergy Conference of the Metropolia, which would take place in Chicago. Dr. Lushniak advised that t would be better to reschedule in October than in July. The Doctor is optimistic about seeing a gradual improvement continue. Significant signs of improvement may be recognized in July and continue throughout the rest of the year.
Archbishop Borys ended the zoom conference with the prayer “Our Father” and called upon Mary, the Mother of God to guard and protect us, Her spiritual children.
We all are grateful to Dr. Lushniak for sharing his knowledge, wisdom, and advice. In particular, we wholeheartedly thank him for reminding, including the clergy, to make one’s health a top priority. In so doing, we shall be enabling ourselves to better serve the Lord God and to possibly do so for many years to come.
Father George Worschak