At this stage of the pandemic, it is obvious that everyone in our nation has been impacted by COVID-19. We've lost more than 640,000 lives as the virus has ravaged our healthcare system and exposed how unprepared we were to face this pandemic. And data show the disease has disproportionately impacted populations already at risk for worse health outcomes, including people of color, low-income communities and those with housing insecurity.
We have learned many public health lessons during this pandemic, especially about the importance of working together as a community to lessen the impact of COVID-19. We know that wearing a mask and distancing ourselves in indoor and less ventilated places can slow the spread of the virus. We have developed treatments and standards of care that improve outcomes for those with severe COVID-19 illness. And we have access to vaccines that are incredibly effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization. Science has led us to these advancements; it is now up to us as a community to follow through on their promise.
That's why the Catholic Health Association is urging Americans to "love thy neighbor" by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
This phrase may remind you of mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, welcoming a newcomer to the block by delivering baked goods, or being the shoulder for a friend to lean on when tragedy strikes. But now, for our country and the entire world, we must "love thy neighbor" by getting vaccinated. This single act can slow the spread of the virus and help prevent many of the hospitalizations and deaths caused by this disease.
As the largest group of not-for-profit healthcare providers in the nation, our members have been on the front lines fighting the pandemic from the beginning—and we have seen firsthand the importance of vaccination. That's why we serve with the government's COVID-19 Community Corps, pushing for more Americans choose vaccination for the well-being of our communities.
Earlier this summer, the Catholic Health Association urged all healthcare workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We continue to support our members as they promote or require vaccination among their staffs, and several hospital associations joined together in support. Vaccination for healthcare professionals is crucial: to provide the best care for others, one must first care for oneself, and there is no better way to do so than with the vaccine. And now that the FDA has given full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, we extend this belief to the community at large.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most important tool we have to return to some semblance of normal as a society. Research has proven the vaccines' safety and efficacy, based on decades of research on coronaviruses, and on a global, concerted effort to develop solutions for this devastating disease. Now we must utilize this scientific advancement and motivate more people to get vaccinated.
Healthcare workers are a trusted voice. By imploring patients and communities to follow recommendations to receive the vaccine, we can help end the pandemic. The human cost of COVID-19 is already far too high. If we revert back to limiting social interactions, economic activity and in-person learning to stop the spread of this deadly virus, the societal impact would be devasting, especially for our essential workers and families who are struggling financially.
Some may suggest that there are moral and religious concerns to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. We strongly affirm the position of the leaders of the Catholic Church: the vaccines are morally acceptable and getting vaccinated is "an act of love." We also believe that broader acceptance of the vaccine is critical to our individual and collective health and well-being, allowing us to attend family gatherings, visit friends and worship together safely.
All who have strong religious beliefs can put faith into action and truly "love thy neighbor" by using the vaccine to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.