Insight Santa Cruz COVID-19 Vaccination Policy

Date: June 28, 2021

Insight Santa Cruz is committed to the safety of our community. After a review of the relevant science and Buddhist wisdom, ISC has decided that the following policy balances protecting and accommodating our sangha as we reopen the Center.

It is strongly recommended that every eligible person vaccinate themselves against COVID-19. The entire ISC Board is vaccinated. ISC requires that teachers and sit-leaders that teach in person to be vaccinated.

ISC does not require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 from those who choose to attend in-person events. ISC requires in-person attendees to protect themselves and each other through masking, social distancing, and handwashing.

Online events are available for those that do not wish to come to the Center in person.

The Science

COVID-19 is a threat to the well-being of our sangha and our broader communities. Over 600,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19.

The vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and up to 95% effective at preventing COVID-19. Many people who get them experience mild side effects or no side effects at all.

However, certain people cannot become vaccinated: children under 12, people with severe allergies to the vaccine components, and some people with suppressed immune systems. To protect these vulnerable groups, it is critical that those that can vaccinate themselves do so.

Yet, the fully vaccinated rate for all of Santa Cruz County is only at 58 percent.

When enough people are vaccinated, it becomes unlikely for a virus to spread within the community. This is called herd immunity. However, a 58 percent vaccination rate is not high enough to rely on herd immunity to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Finally, although the vaccines are extremely effective, they are not able to prevent transmission in all cases. How much the vaccines reduce the transmission of the virus from a vaccinated person to an unvaccinated person is still unknown. In addition, coronavirus variants, which were not the target of the clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccines, are also still an unknown for transmission.

The Buddhist Wisdom

For laypeople, the Theravāda tradition from which Insight meditation is derived has five precepts. Undertaking and upholding the five precepts is based on the principle of non-harming (Pāli and Sanskrit: ahiṃsa). The first precept is the abstention from taking life.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is in harmony with valuing others’ lives, avoiding harm to others, and not taking life.

Guidance can also be found in the Kucchivikara-vatthu (Mv 8.26.1-8): The Monk with Dysentery. In this story the Buddha comes across a very sick monk who had been neglected by his fellow monks. The Buddha aids him and offers a teaching on those qualities that make patients easy (or difficult) to tend to and those that make caregivers fit (or unfit) to tend to their patients. The Buddha says, “A sick person… is easy to tend to” when, among other things, he “does what is amenable to his cure… takes his medicine” and is able to endure bodily discomfort.

The best cure for our sangha and our wider community against COVID-19 is our collective vaccination against it. Once we have taken this step, we can know that we are helping to heal our society of this virus.

ISC strongly recommends that everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine when eligible.

References and additional reading:

CDC website: COVID-19 cases and deaths (updated regularly)

CDC website: “Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”(updated regularly)

CA.Gov website: How to get vaccinated

Yale Health website: “Who should and shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine?” (last known update June 17, 2021)

Santa Cruz County Health website: County COVID-19 data (updated regularly)

John Hopkins website: “What Is Herd Immunity and How Can We Achieve It With COVID-19?” by Gypsyamber D’Souza and David Dowdy (last known update April 6, 2021)

Healthline website: “If You’re Vaccinated Can You Transmit COVID-19? What We Know” by Shawn Radcliffe (April 6, 2021) 

“Kucchivikara-Vatthu: The Monk With Dysentery” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu