Watchtower Response to Covid-19
The Governing Body provided no advance notice of the outbreak of Covid-19, nor special guidance on how to avoid it since the outbreak. Their advice has simply been to follow local laws, therefore affording no protection beyond that experienced by people around them. The result is that Jehovah's Witnesses are dying at rates higher than global averages.
On 30th April 2020, Watchtower released news that 872 Jehovah's Witnesses had died from Covid-19 at International-Brotherhood-Comforts-Those-Impacted-by-Deadly-Pandemic.
In November 2020, an Announcement advised that 130,000 Jehovah's Witnesses had been infected with Covid-19 and over 5,000 had died.
Once again, infection and mortality rates amongst Jehovah's Witnesses continued to be higher than global averages. Using 2019 publisher figures, 1.5% of Jehovah's Witnesses had contracted the virus, of which 3.8% died. Global figures at the time were an infection rate of 0.6% and 2.5% death rate.
A confidential letter addressed To All Special Full-time Servants At Bethel And In The Field, dated August 6, 2021, advised that nearly 20,000 Jehovah's Witnesses have died. This means that 0.236% of Jehovah's Witnesses have died of Covid-19, over 4 times higher than the global rate in August 2021 of 0.051%. In December, the 2021 Governing Body Update #10 announced that 25,658 Jehovahs Witnesses have died due to Covid 19.
Sadly, this trend is affecting Jehovah's Witnesses around the world. Announcement September 22, 2021 to all congregations in the Philippines identified:
"... 508 deaths among our brothers and sisters as of September 17, 2021. These figures indicate that the ratio of deaths among the brothers is even higher than among the general population."
One factor to consider as a reason for Jehovah's Witnesses having higher rates is that they tend to be more prevalent in countries most affected by Covid-19, such as the United States. However, the rate of 0.236% for Jehovah's Witnesses is still higher than that in the US, which had a rate of 0.19% (638,000/333,178,000) in August 2021.
The two primary contributing factors for Covid contraction and deaths is age and income. In these regards:
- the age of Jehovah's Witnesses is higher than population averages
- the income of Jehovah's Witnesses is lower than population averages
It is regrettable that if the Governing Body is not privilege to Divine guidance, and Jehovah's Witnesses are disproportionately represented in high risk groups, these results are to be expected.
Vaccinations and Transfusions
Whilst Jehovah's Witnesses are allowed most forms of medical treatment, they are forbidden blood transfusions and certain blood fractions (or components as Watchtower refers to the 4 fractions that are forbidden. At times in its history, transplants and vaccinations have also been forbidden - see the articles Changing Medical Advice and Blood Transfusions. This can lead to confusion and potential unnecessary loss of life.
Some treatments for Covid-19 are based on the plasma of Covid-19 survivors that have developed immunity. Watchtower doctrine is convoluted on the matter, illogically banning transfusions of plasma, but allowing transfusions of plasma fractions as a matter of conscience. Jehovah's Witnesses are theoretically allowed Covid-19 plasma infusions that may save their lives, but generally unaware this is the case.
How To Remain In God's Love (2017) p.247
Vaccination has been shown to slow the spread of the Corona virus, and minimise the severity in those that develop Covid-19.
Watchtower permits the use of vaccinations, provided they do not contains blood, as outlined in a Dec 3, 2020 Announcement to congregations.
A confidential letter sent To All Special Full-time Servants At Bethel And In The Field on August 6, 2021 strongly promoted the use of vaccinations.
It provided the following information and advice.
"(1) As Jehovah's Witnesses, we do not have a religious objection to vaccination. (2) Nearly 20,000 of our dear brothers and sisters have died from the COVID-19 virus. ... At the present time, 17,957 Bethel family members worldwide have been vaccinated. Yet, we have not received a report of even one Bethel family member having a severe adverse reaction ... . ... ninety-nine percent of the publishers ... who have died from COVID-19 were not vaccinated."
Watchtower wants Jehovah's Witnesses to get vaccinated, but seem reticent to demand it, hence a strangely worded announcement dated September 27, 2021 saying there was an obligation to get vaccinated if commanded by secular authorities.
"2. Branch offices have reported that some elders have voiced strong personal opinions against COVID-19 vaccination. Why is this of concern? Romans 13:1 says that "the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God." Also, the study note on Romans 13:5 says: "A Christian submits to human governments when a command does not contradict God's laws." Romans 13:2 states: "Whoever opposes the [secular] authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God." Thus, elders should be careful not to voice personal opinions that contradict direction from the superior authorities. If an elder has been doing so, now is the time to stop. (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:4-7) Otherwise, he could become guilty of causing divisions in the congregation."
At least one congregation even organised for vaccinations to be administered at the local Kingdom Hall.
In 2020, Lett gleefully proclaimed the spread of COVID-19 to be evidence that:
"we're living in the final part of the Last Days. Undoubtedly, the final part of the final part of the Last Days, shortly before the last day of the Last Days." JW Broadcast March 2020
A year later Armageddon had not arrived and Jehovah's Witnesses had not been spared from the affects of the pandemic, suffering in the same way as those around them. Watchtower guidance focused on ways to stay safe from infection. Life started to return to normal as vaccinations slowed the spread of the virus, with modern medicine preventing the devastating mortality rates of pandemics from previous centuries.
The Governing Body seemed to forget that COVID-19 had been used to enthuse followers about the nearness of the end. When discussing the hope that the "pandemic would be over by now", Herd skirts admitting that the Governing Body had planted the hope that Armaggedon would be the cause of its end.
"Were you hoping this pandemic would be over by now? I think we all were." 2021 Governing Body Update #6 JULY 16, 2021.
For over a century, Watchtower leaders have used global catastrophes to invoke fear and hope that the end was about to occur. The end never eventuates, but generation after generation of followers have been enticed by this effective tactic of emotional manipulation.
Watchtower's history regarding Medical Advice is one of quackery, contradiction and change. They originally allowed blood transfusions, then banned them, but now allow blood fractions. Organ transplants were allowed, then forbidden, then once again allowed. Vaccinations were forbidden and demonized in the most uncertain of terms, but are now encouraged.
Watchtower letters to the elders and congregations point followers to government websites, such as cdc.com, and do not contain any advice more timely or insightful than that from the medical community.
The following screenshot is from the government site Jehovah's Witnesses are directed to.
The Governing Body has been unable to provide guidance on COVID-19 beyond what they gather from medical experts. Their advice on vaccinations has varied over the years, based on the whims of different leaders. The death rate of Jehovah's Witnesses attributable to COVID-19 is higher than average, further proof Watchtower and its' Governing Body are not directed by Jehovah. Unwarranted faith in these men should not be used as a basis to determine how you live your life now and into the future.
For more information on this topic see ajwrb.org (11 May 2020). For a detailed discussion on how Watchtower teachings on blood have changed dramatically over the decades, and why current teachings make no sense, see Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood Transfusions.
Written May 2020. Latest update Jan 2022.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2022