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Receiving The Anti-Covid-19 Vaccine

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The talk in our global village continues to be on the vaccine and on how people face the vaccines against the potentially deadly virus Covid-19. Some people are against the vaccine, many others have doubts about the efficacy and security of the vaccines, and the majority are patiently or impatiently waiting to be vaccinated.

However, many are asking about the morality of receiving certain vaccines that have used in their production cell lines derived from freely aborted fetuses.

In this brief journalistic essay, we face two important issues: in this first column, we deal with the issue of vaccination in general; in the second, we shall speak on the morality of the use of vaccines of unethical origin.


As in other similar dramatic situations through human history, there is today a considerable group of people, the so called anti-vaxxers, who are opposed to the vaccine and vaccination: the anti-vaccine movement, which usually grounds its arguments on apparently false information and fake scientific data, at times on outlandish political and ideological conspiracy theories, and even on the belief on a coming apocalypse. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers this radical opposition to the vaccine “one of the great threats to world health.”

            There seems to be a greater number of doubting people who want to be vaccinated, but later, not now. When? When the available vaccines, especially its variants, are scientifically known to be truly effective and safe and, particularly, with no major secondary bad effects in those who have already been vaccinated. This group of people have to face a serious ethical problem: while waiting to get the vaccine, you might be infected with the coronavirus, and this is against the ethical principles of stewardship (protecting your health from the coronavirus), of social and ethical responsibility (protecting the health of those near you), of solidarity (contributing to the common good, the good of all). For believers in God the Father of all, and for many others, the refusal to get vaccinated as soon as possible is against the core principle of universal fraternity.

An argument used against the anti-Covid-19 vaccines: these have come out too soon, which is true. These vaccines have come out much sooner that previous ones. But this is understandable: there is enough money to carry out the expensive research; there are many top scientists involved and a large number of volunteering subjects; the scientific methods used at present are better and faster.

The greatest majority of people are in favor of the vaccines as the best means as of now to fight Covid-19. Currently, global vaccination is the principal strategy to overcome the coronavirus today, to save lives and to improve the highly battered economy – and sooner than later be able to shake hands, embrace friends, and see the children’s smile …; and the wounded economy will improve faster. Indeed, universal vaccination is the key path to achieve what is called “herd immunity” – the immunity of the majority – and thus be able to overcome this potentially lethal virus that has darkened our lives

Scientists, bioethicists, and health care providers must continue answering the problems put forward by the negationists and the doubting people.  They must convince people of the efficacy of the vaccine and its variants and their safety and, in a particular way, of the consequent secondary effects, and that these appear to be generally mild. We have to trust competent and responsible science that respects scientifically the strict protocol for research and production, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines, and respects ethically the equal rights to life and health, and the essential social values of justice, the common good and social charity.

The dramatic health, social and economic crisis being caused by Covid-19 will only be solved with justice and in solidarity. Instead of competition among various countries and different pharmaceutical companies, there ought to be cooperation:  racing together to beat this pandemic and focusing mainly on the health and well-being of the people, and not on commercial profit or political gains.

The vaccines ought to be available to all, including the disabled and the differently able, the poor and the elderly. Hopefully, these groups will not be excluded from getting the vaccine as some elderly were unjustly excluded, at least during the first wave of the spreading of the coronavirus, from their right to equal accessibility to health care services (to ICUs). The poor should be given – and this is possible in our world - free vaccines. Not to make the vaccines available to the poor and to poor countries amounts to a kind of real discrimination and injustice.  

Considering that vaccination cannot be given to all immediately, there must be a just prioritization, which respects the principles of equality, need, and social benefit. Who should be vaccinated first? There seems to be agreement on the general answer to the question: to committed health care providers and other front liners fighting courageously Covid-19 and to the most vulnerable persons and groups, including nursing homes.

There is a particular ethical problem concerning elderly and others who are mentally incapacitated to make personal decisions. In these cases, the family has the power to decide, but only according to the best interest of these persons, who have – like others – the rights to life and to health. Otherwise, these cases (when families decide not to vaccinate disabled relatives) will end up probably in the hands of a judge, who is to defend these persons’ equal rights to life and health.

The Catholic Church is contributing its share regarding the vaccination of people in different countries. Pope Francis and many Episcopal Conferences throughout the world are encouraging universal vaccination.  For instance, the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, England, has offered to the government its diocesan offices for the rollout of vaccines. Spanish bishops have repeated that the arrival of the vaccines is good news to all. For their part, the American Bishops in charge of the Committee of Life Issues affirm: “Being vaccinated safely against Covid-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”

We close this first column with the words of Pope Francis in a recent interview (January 10, 2021): “I think that ethically all must take the vaccine. It is not an option; it is an ethical action, because you are playing with your health, with your life. And you also play with the life of others.”

By Fr. Fausto Gómez, OP.