The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted and caused the deaths of millions of people globally. As of February 2021 it shows no signs of slowing down. Many members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, including sannyasis, gurus, and other senior devotees — as well as some younger devotees — have passed away as a result of COVID-19 infections and related complications. Numerous other devotees who contracted and have recovered from COVID-19 continue to suffer from its weakening effects.
The GBC has encouraged devotees for many months to take all precautions necessary to protect their health. This includes wearing masks, social distancing, limiting visitors to temples, providing hand sanitizers, and following government guidelines and mandates. We continue to urge devotees to remain vigilant regarding these precautions.
Now that vaccines have been developed, some devotees are questioning if it is appropriate for Vaishnavas to take the vaccines. First and foremost, we note that this is an individual devotee’s decision whether or not to take the vaccine. There is no prohibition or any directive given by the GBC or any other ISKCON authorities in this regard.
Given the fact that there are various different vaccines currently in the global market with varying degrees of efficacy, testing history and availability, the GBC recommends that devotees thoroughly educate themselves on the relevant details as a part of their decision-making process.
Srila Prabhupada made many statements regarding the importance and priority of personal health.
“Be careful about your health first. This information is not only for you but all my noble sons. I am an old man. I may live or die, it does not matter. But you must live for long time to push on this Krishna Consciousness movement.”
Letter to Rayarama, 21 December, 1967
“You ask if children may be taken to ordinary medical doctors. Why not? Of course, we do not always trust that these doctors may be doing the right thing, but what can be done? The governing principle for our activity should be to do what is favourable for pleasing Krishna. So, if your child requires medical attention to be fit for serving Krishna, then it is only practical she should get it.”
Letter to Lalita Kumar and Jambavati — Vrindaban 27 November, 1971:
Praying for the health and safety of all the Vaishnavas, we remain,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami
GBC Executive Committee