Is There a Moral Obligation for Christians to be Vaccinated for COVID-19?
Jason Eberl, PhD, Director, Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, St. Louis University
The available COVID-19 vaccines have raised ethical questions concerning safety and efficacy, "passports" for vaccinated individuals, and governmental/institutional mandates. These questions have been pertinent in both secular and Christian arenas, with additional concerns within the latter regarding the moral liceity of how the vaccines were developed/tested due to the use of immortalized fetal cell lines that are linked to elective abortions. In the Catholic realm, Vatican authorities have affirmed the morally acceptability of receiving any of the available vaccines, and Pope Francis has stated that vaccination is a moral obligation. Nevertheless, the Catholic Medical Association and National Catholic Bioethics Center have issued statements against governmental/institutional mandates, which are becoming more prevalent in Catholic healthcare and educational institutions, without allowing religious/moral exemptions; this view on the importance of safeguarding individuals’ right to exercise a religious/moral right of conscience is shared by many other Christian groups even though none have formally opposed COVID-19 vaccination. It is arguable that Christians who object to COVID-19 vaccine mandates are being unjustifiably scrupulous and acting on a misinformed conscience, which civil and institutional authorities, justified by ethical principles peculiar to the public health context-in contrast to the clinical or research context, need not respect in safeguarding the common good. I conclude that there is a moral obligation, based on Christian principles, to be vaccinated for COVID-19-unless medically contraindicated-and that Christians do not have a justifiable reason to request a religious/moral exemption from vaccination mandates.