SALT LAKE CITY — Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should protect themselves against COVID-19 by following in the footsteps of President Russell M. Nelson and other top leaders and get the vaccine, church officials advised on Friday.
For those called to serve in other countries, immunizations are a requirement, including the COVID-19 vaccine.
While all church members are responsible and free to make their own choices on vaccination, the church is encouraging missionaries to get the shot in an effort to "safeguard themselves and others."
The letter offering the new advice was sent from the church's missionary department to local church leaders in the United States on Friday.
For missionaries who choose to receive their COVID-19 shot, they should finish the entire vaccination process before traveling.
Information on vaccine availability in a mission area will be provided to elders and sisters by mission medical coordinators, under the direction of mission leaders, according to the statement.
For senior and young missionaries called to serve in other countries, COVID-19 and other immunizations are required.
Young missionaries from the U.S. who have been called to another country "should be vaccinated before traveling," the statement says.
Senior missionaries are able to go to their missions where travel and visa requirements are met "after they have been vaccinated," according to the church.
Missionaries will be called to a mission in their home countries if they choose not to get the required vaccinations, including the COVID-19 shot. This is in alignment with existing church policies, the statement notes.
For missionaries living in areas where the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, they will be asked by the church to get vaccinated before leaving their home countries.
In January, eligible top leaders for the church received their vaccine and the First Presidency implored all members to follow suit.
"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," the January statement said. "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."