London priest’s near-death experience and passionate call for vaccination uptake

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Father Albert Ofere’s a Nigerian priest serving at English Martyrs Catholic Church in Wembley, north west London. Last year he contracted Covid-19 and was admitted to nearby Northwick Park Hospital – something he describes as truly frightening.

Father Ofere has learnt much from his near-death experience, not least that the virus attacks indiscriminately:

“I speak from experience. Covid-19 is real and is causing havoc. We are all affected, directly or indirectly, regardless of nationality, race or class.”

Equally, being fit and healthy doesn’t offer a guarantee of protection:

“I’m quite an active and healthy person and yet I suffered that much. I can only imagine how it affected those with underlying health issues. It’s not surprising that people are dying.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

The nation is in lockdown with high numbers of hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths. Cardinal Vincent Nichols recently spoke about dealing with grief and bereavement as England passed 100,000 Covid-related deaths. He emphasised how we must “build back better” with a sense of renewed purpose when we come out of the pandemic.

Vaccination is a key part of the pandemic exit strategy. Indeed the Cardinal himself was recently vaccinated. Fr Ofere, too, has received the Covid jab:

“Through the ingenuity of science vaccines have been made and I couldn’t wait to receive mine… If you have been through what I have been through, you will not hesitate to go for your vaccine.”

He also speaks directly to minority communities:

“There are some very outlandish materials on social media presenting so-called reasons for not being vaccinated. Look at the facts; speak to your GP. If you prefer, speak to your ethnic GP. Get answers to any questions you might have. Importantly, pray. Pray about it and then make an informed decision to have your vaccine.”

Fr Ofere describes the vaccine as “a gift from God” and points out that the Pope has been vaccinated:

“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, says that it’s our ethical duty not only to protect ourselves, but to protect others. Pope Francis supports the vaccine and so do I. As Jesus says, I’ve come to give you a life – abundant life. So go and get your vaccine so you can live your life to the full!”

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In December 2020, Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of Social Justice, issued a statement on vaccination and the debate concerning usage from a Catholic perspective.

The Vatican’s Congregagtion for the Doctrine of the Faith also issued guidance on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines.

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has a series of Covid-19 briefing papers.