Following the death of a Hillsong Church member due to COVID, the congregation's founder maintained that vaccination is an individual's prerogative.
Captured by CNN, Brian Houston released a statement on social media after Stephen Harmon, a congregant at the church's branch in California, passed away in the hospital for coronavirus infection.
"Stephen was just a young man in his early 30s. He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him," he wrote.
On Twitter, Harmon reportedly stated in June that vaccination is not one of his "99 problems." But less than a month after, he announced that he contracted COVID and was being treated in the hospital. He made several updates afterwards, asking prayers. In the last tweet, the man shared that he agreed to having intubated due to his breathing problem and continued to request for prayers.
Houston said that on "medical issue[s]," he encourages his church members "to follow the guidance of their doctors."
But the minister pointed out that getting the shot is still a "personal decision."
"While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the Covid-19 vaccine, we recognize this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals," he declared.
He also clarified that Harmon's opinion on vaccines does not reflect that of the church.
"Stephen's thoughts on vaccines were his own. They do not represent the views and thoughts of Hillsong Church. Many of our pastors, staff, and congregation are fully vaccinated and more will be when vaccines become available to them in their countries," the pastor stated.
Readers are urged to pray for Harmon's family.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reportedly said that the vaccines may not be enough to protect the vaccinated population from the virus' "potential mutations." As a precaution therefore, the CDC advised the resumption of wearing masks.
According to The Washington Post, the country has recorded a huge increase in coronavirus infection, wherein the daily average rose from 13,000 in early July to 56,000 today.
Walensky stated that the spike in COVID cases had forced the CDC to impose the mask guidance.
"It is not a welcome piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people's lives who have already been vaccinated. This new guidance weighs heavily on me," she said.
In the center's latest recommendation, the people are advised to wear masks in indoor public spaces and schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Further, a recent study released by the Hebrew University revealed that though the Pfizer vaccine is 90% effective in preventing deaths, its effectiveness to prevent the illness has decreased to 80%.