SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson, along with seven other top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning.
In Utah, where the leaders received the vaccine, those aged 70 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine as of this week. Leaders who do not meet the age requirement have not yet been vaccinated, church officials said.
"We are thankful for the countless individuals who performed the work required to make this possible," President Nelson, who is 96, wrote in a tweet. "We have prayed for this literal godsend. Receiving the vaccine is part of our personal efforts to be good global citizens."
President Nelson's wife, Wendy, was also vaccinated along with the entire First Presidency and multiple members of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
In all, President Dallin H. Oaks and his wife, Kristen, received the vaccine along with President Henry B. Eyring, 87; President M. Russell Ballard, 92; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, 80, and his wife, Patricia; Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 80, and his wife, Harriet; Elder Quentin L. Cook, 80, and his wife, Mary; Elder D. Todd Christofferson, 75, and his wife, Kathy.
"I'm glad our turn has come to have this vaccination," President Oaks said in a statement on Tuesday morning. "We're very hopeful that the general vaccination of the population will help us get ahead of this awful pandemic. It's hopeful, like the light at the end of the tunnel. There is relief and appreciation involved for those who have invented the vaccine and for those who have caused it to be generally available on a sensible priority system."
To date, three members of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have tested positive for the novel coronavirus: Elder Gerrit W. Gong, 67, and his wife, Susan, in October; Elder Dale G. Renlund, 68, and his wife, Ruth, in early December; and most recently, Elder Ulisses Soares, 62, and his wife, Rosana.
All three elders and their wives have since recovered from the virus. Per Utah's vaccination rollout plan, anyone who has tested positive for the virus cannot receive the vaccine within 90 days of their infection.
Historically, the church has supported vaccinations and spoken of the importance of immunization.
In 1978, the First Presidency urged members to protect children through vaccinations, and in recent years the humanitarian arm of the church has funded projects to deliver vaccines across the world.
Since 2002, Latter-day Saint Charities has helped fund 168 projects in 46 countries to bring aid to about 116,819,870 people, according to church officials.
Wendy and I were vaccinated today against COVID-19. We are thankful for the countless individuals who performed the work required to make this possible. We have prayed for this literal godsend. Receiving the vaccine is part of our personal efforts to be good global citizens. pic.twitter.com/oZw5EgzkjQ— Russell M. Nelson (@NelsonRussellM) January 19, 2021
Also on Tuesday, the First Presidency released a statement discussing the importance of immunization against preventable diseases, encouraging members to get their shots once they become eligible.
The full statement reads:
"In word and deed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported vaccinations for generations. As a prominent component of our humanitarian efforts, the Church has funded, distributed and administered life-saving vaccines throughout the world. Vaccinations have helped curb or eliminate devastating communicable diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, smallpox and measles. Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.
"As this pandemic spread across the world, the Church immediately canceled meetings, closed temples, and restricted other activities because of our desire to be good global citizens and do our part to fight the pandemic.
"Now, COVID-19 vaccines that many have worked, prayed, and fasted for are being developed, and some are being provided. Under the guidelines issued by local health officials, vaccinations were first offered to health care workers, first responders, and other high-priority recipients. Because of their age, Senior Church leaders over 70 now welcome the opportunity to be vaccinated.
"As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs."