Why all Catholics should get vaccinated

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

I recently received an email from my former parishioner who now lives in the United States, inquiring about the morality of the COVID-19 vaccine. The lady with three children, is worried about the hospitalizations for children that are rising as COVID Delta variant surges in her country. 

Her predicament reads: “All those years I have tried my best to be a good Catholic, and I have a knowledged that commonly used vaccines have their origin in cell lines that were originally developed from an aborted fetus. This poses a serious moral dilemma for those who oppose abortion. Two questions bother me: first, may a Catholic, in good conscience, get vaccines derived from aborted materials, or is one obliged to refuse them? And second, may a Catholic parent refuse to vaccinate a child?”  

The vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been authorized so far in the United States. These vaccines against COVID-19 were developed from a technology relying on ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the virus itself.  In my recollection, when these vaccines become available, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has determined that it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take these vaccines against the virus.  As regards the indications that aborted materials/embryos were used to manufacture the vaccine, Church authorities explain that even though the vaccines may have been tested using compromised cell lines, this does not establish a connection between the vaccine recipient and the abortion.  Consequently, it has been established that the use of these vaccines is ethically sound. 

More recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) reiterated that it is important for all to get vaccinated even if there are new variants of the virus: “Vaccines are a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19, and there are clear public health and lifesaving benefits to using the tools we already have. We must not put off getting vaccinated because of our concerns about new variants and we must proceed with vaccination even if the vaccines may be somewhat less effective against some of the COVID-19 virus variants. We need to use the tools we have in hand even while we continue to improve those tools. We are all safe only if everyone is safe.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) mentioned on its December 21, 2020, issued statement, noting that it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take vaccines against COVID-19.  Among other things, the CDF stated: “All vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive” … “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.” The statement further affirms thus:  “In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”It is strongly encouraged therefore for Catholics to receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for the sake of oneself, our loved ones, and the common good. In some countries, health authorities recommend 12 years and older should get COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against COVID-19. If some of the faithful choose not to take the vaccine for reasons of conscience, the Vatican says those persons “must do their utmost to avoid … becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.” (Photo courtesy of: Sacred Heart Sisters, New Jersey)