Thrive by IU Health

May 04, 2021

IU Health chaplain says faith, informed by science, led him to get the vaccine

IU Health chaplain says faith, informed by science, led him to get the vaccine

As an African-American, Joe Colquitt understands the hesitancy some people feel about the COVID-19 vaccine. But he believes he has a duty to share why he got the shot.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Joe Colquitt is a man of faith. A husband, father and chaplain. He’s also African-American.

With those identifiers in mind, he wants to talk about why he decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a recent column for IU Health employees, the Rev. Colquitt, who has worked in chaplaincy within the organization for 16 years, addresses vaccine hesitancy in the context of faith and science.

“I thought it might be helpful to share my story,” he writes. “I know some people struggle with whether or not to take the vaccination to arrest COVID-19.”

He was one of those people, wondering if it would be safe and effective. But he put aside his reservations and relied on his faith and his knowledge of science to guide him.

“It is my faith, informed by science, that helped me make the decision,” he said. “Like many of you, I regularly check the weather to hear what the meteorologist has to say. As a result, I may have to bring an umbrella sometimes. That kind of protection does not diminish my faith at all.”

As a chaplain in healthcare, Colquitt has seen what COVID can do to people. He mourns the 575,000 lives lost to the virus, a disproportionate number of them people of color.

Data from Johns Hopkins University indicates that Black Americans are three times more likely to get the virus and twice as likely to die from COVID than white Americans.

“Those numbers were enough to convince me of the urgency to take the vaccine,” Colquitt said. “I have walked the halls where patients suffer from COVID-19. We, like other healthcare workers, see the impact of this virus firsthand. We watch the virus destroy lungs and alter the lives of the patient and the family.”

The most vulnerable are those who suffer from disparities that influence health outcomes – whether that be pre-existing conditions, lack of access to quality care or multigenerational living spaces – when they are not treated with a vaccine that is capable of preventing COVID-19 infection, he said.

The chaplain, who had his first and second vaccine shots earlier this year and is encouraging friends and family to do the same, said he hopes that sharing his story will be helpful to others.

He believes he has a responsibility to use his platform as a writer and a chaplain to make a difference. To leave the discussion solely to the medical world is not enough, he said.

“I feel an obligation to have the conversation.”

His faith requires him to consider mind, body and spirit in the overall health of a person.

“I have a body and a mind. To deny their importance in how I come to know spiritual matters feels spiritually unhealthy.”

As humans, we don’t have all the answers, he said.

“But we have to get up out of bed anyway and face the world. We still walk by faith, whether we talk about it in religious terms or not. It’s as basic as life itself.”

He places his faith in God and science.

To date, 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing about 30% of the population. Worldwide, less than 10% of the population has been fully vaccinated, leading public health officials to worry that the virus will continue to mutate, making it tougher to control.

Anyone 16 and older may now schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. Click here to register or call 211 (866-211-9966) if you do not have access to a computer or need assistance.

Related Services