In the light of the emergence of the vaccine for Covid 19, I have been asked to offer some guidance. Some of you might be aware that there has been some controversy in Catholic circles about the methods used to develop the vaccine.
As Catholics, we are expected to inform our consciences before making our decisions. The bishops are charged with the duty of teaching and guiding. It is to them that we look for clear guidance in this matter. Therefore, I am including here the statement of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales about the Covid 19 vaccine.
Bishops’ Conference – England & Wales
On 3rd December, the Department for Social Justice of the Bishops’ Conference issued the following statement, signed by the Chair, Bishop Richard Moth, on COVID-19 vaccines:
In September 2020 the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement COVID-19 and Vaccination (24th September 2020). In the light of the recent breakthrough in vaccine development we now wish to issue a follow up statement.
- The development of a vaccine against COVID-19 presents an important breakthrough in protecting others as well as oneself from the virus; a virus which has not only caused a global pandemic and led to a huge loss of life but has also placed a great burden on healthcare workers and systems.
- Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate.
- At present, debate concerns the use of the vaccines developed by Pfizer & BioNTech, Moderna, and Astra Zeneca. Some have questioned the use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine since it has been developed from cell-lines originating from the cells of an aborted foetus in 1983. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy of Life have expressed the view that one may in good conscience and for a grave reason receive a vaccine sourced in this way, provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action. In the COVID-19 pandemic, we judge that this grave reason exists and that one does not sin by receiving the vaccine.
- Both the Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have a different source since they are mRNA-based vaccines. On 2 December 2020, the Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK.
- Each Catholic must educate his or her conscience on this matter and decide what to do, also bearing in mind that a vaccine must be safe, effective, and universally available, especially to the poor of the world.
- Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves. In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.
Bishop Richard Moth – Chair, Department of Social Justice
Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
In this statement, the Bishops have provided clear guidance for us all. Perhaps as Parish Priest I can offer some personal thoughts.
My first motivation for receiving the vaccine would be to protect myself from infection and therefore prevent others being infected by me. It is an act that seeks to uphold the common good. Moral theologians have commented that if a person declines to receive the vaccine for moral reasons, or indeed for any other reason, that person still has a moral duty to protect themselves and others from infection. This might require a radical self isolation.
Personally, I believe it is my moral duty to receive the vaccine and will do so as soon as I am called forward by the medical authorities, having read the statement of our Bishops and following the example of Pope Francis who has just received the vaccine.
I hope that this letter has been of help in your decision making.
God bless you all,