COVID-19 Vaccine Updates: Vaccine Available to Catholic School Employees and Clergy; Cardinal Gregory Receives Vaccine

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leadership in the Archdiocese of Washington has worked hard over the past few weeks to collaborate with local health departments across the region to ensure employees have equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes Catholic school employees, clergy, and other essential support for churches and houses of worship.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, recently received his first and second doses of the coronavirus vaccine. The vaccinations were administered at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland.  See photos and details here.

“We at Holy Cross Health are honored to provide Cardinal Gregory with his COVID-19 vaccine as he serves the people of the region in ministry throughout the archdiocese,” said Dr. Norvell “Van” Coots, president and chief executive officer of Holy Cross Health.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released guidance and considerations on the morality of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory and Maryland’s bishops are urging the faithful to receive the vaccine once it is made available to them.

“We have the vaccines that are effective in helping to protect us, and I urge and plead and invite all of our students, faculty, parents, grandparents, teachers (and) benefactors to make good use of those vaccines, to get vaccinated,” Cardinal Gregory said at a livestreamed Mass for the community of Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington last month.

Under Phase 1B of distribution in the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, the vaccine is now available to Catholic school personnel. The rollout of the vaccine in the more densely populated areas of the archdiocese will take several weeks in order to meet the need of teachers and staff that desire the vaccine. The vaccine for archdiocesan educators, staff, and students is currently voluntary, a decision, reached by the Archdiocese of Washington, that falls in alignment with current government practices and expectations. Safety protocols will still be required, although individuals are fully vaccinated, until enough people are vaccinated and the spread of the virus is significantly under control. Face coverings, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, and washing hands regularly will continue through the 2020-2021 school year.

The majority of archdiocesan Catholic schools were among the first to bring students back into buildings and have provided in-person learning since September. The safety measures implemented in schools have been successful in keeping positive cases across the archdiocese, for children and adults, at a very low rate compared to District and county rising numbers. The archdiocese also successfully maintained lower case rates after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Further, as part of the State of Maryland’s vaccination rollout, clergy and other essential support for houses of worship became eligible to receive the vaccine through Phase 1C, which began on January 25.

In the District of Columbia, the vaccine is not currently available specifically to clergy, but clergy and other essential church staff may be part of other prioritized groups that are eligible to receive the vaccine.