Leading bioethics agency comes out strongly against mandatory COVID vaccines
Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Centre, told EWTN's Raymond Arroyo in an interview last week that Catholic teaching is clear when it comes to the topic of mandatory vaccination.
"The Church has been clear that vaccination, as the rule, is not a moral obligation. It is something that needs to be voluntary," Pacholczyk said.
"Every individual needs to be, according to conscience, determining which medical interventions are, or are not, appropriate for their particular state in life. So, when you have these blanket mandates, there is a lot of risk; there's kind of a tendency to paint with too broad of a brush. And, you know, the effect here can be that individual liberty and individual assessment of circumstances are not respected," he added.
The issue of mandatory vaccinations is of concern for many Canadians who value their Charter Right to "freedom of conscience" and “security of the person.” Many Canadians, in good conscience, are refusing the COVID vaccine for a number of reasons, including the following:
- The creation of the vaccines involves the use of fetal cells from aborted babies.
- The vaccines are experimental and are not yet fully approved. They are only approved for use in Canada according to an interim order.
- There is no data on the possible long-term negative consequences or side-effects of the vaccines (possible cancer, infertility, compromised immune system, etc.).
- There is already existing data of adverse events for the vaccines, including blood clots and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). The U.S.-based Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System has recorded 13,000 COVID-vaccine-related deaths and 518,800 adverse reactions as of this writing.
- The vaccines' efficacy is highly contested in real-world usage.
- The vaccine's implementation is being used simultaneously to piggyback in a social credit system similar to China's that deprives citizens of guaranteed rights and freedoms.
Pacholczyk pointed out how when it comes to every other kind of medical intervention, the right of the patient to voluntarily consent to the treatment is absolutely recognized and respected before the treatment.
This week, the National Catholic Bioethics Centre (NCBC) put out a statement on its website, making it clear that it "does not endorse mandated COVID-19 immunization."
The Philadelphia-based agency pointed out that the most authoritative guidance from the Catholic Church on the topic emphasizes that "individuals must discern whether to be vaccinated or not in conscience and without coercion."
The NCBC quoted from a December teaching from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith (See full text here).
Practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, 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. 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. Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. (italicized original)
The NCBC noted that "several key points should be kept in mind by any institution that might consider incentivizing or requiring the use of COVID-19 vaccines."
1. The Church has consistently pointed out the ethical problems with vaccines produced and/or tested using abortion-derived cell lines. The Church has judged it permissible for people to either accept (under protest) or reject the use of such vaccines. In other words, there is no universal moral obligation to accept or refuse them, and it should be a voluntary decision of the individual. Catholic institutions, in particular, should respect the decisions of people to decline use of vaccines dependent on abortion-derived cell lines. This is especially relevant when there are other means of mitigating risk.
2. The best ethical decision-making occurs when individuals have sufficient information for discernment and are able to reflect without undue external pressures placed on them. Mandates, by their very nature, exert pressure that can be severe if employment or the ability to further one's education are threatened. Indeed, it would be a radical departure from past practice to impose a mandate involving an unapproved vaccine available only under an Emergency Use Authorization.
3. The novelty of the SARS-CoV-2 and of the technologies for eliciting an immune response to prevent or mitigate COVID-19 leave several medical questions unanswered. Only time and careful study of the virus and benefits and adverse effects of the vaccines will provide the answers many persons need to give free and informed consent.
4. If any institution mandates COVID-19 vaccination, the NCBC strongly urges robust, transparent, and readily accessible exemptions for medical, religious, and conscience reasons. Safeguarding the appropriate judgments of conscience (See Catechism 1776―1802, especially 1790) of all individuals affiliated with the institution helps establish trust and avoid undue pressure during the important and personal process of deciding about appropriate medical care and serving the common good.
5. Recognizing the importance of public health, institutions that grant an exemption may require that recipients restrict their interpersonal interactions, but these restrictions should be the least burdensome possible.
The NCBC states on its website that its mission is to “provide education, guidance, and resources to the Church and society to uphold the dignity of the human person in health care and biomedical research, thereby sharing in the ministry of Jesus Christ and his Church.” It pledges its service to “clergy, religious, and laity, especially those in the health care professions, as they face daily ethical challenges in the care and treatment of patients.”
Pacholczyk said in his August 19 interview with Arroyo that COVID vaccines have been "misrepresented" to the public as a kind of "panacea" to the pandemic, but the reality of their effectiveness is more "nuanced."
He pointed to Israel, the first country in the world to fully vaccinate the vast majority of its citizens against COVID (78 percent of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated, mostly with the Pfizer vaccine), only to now have one of the world's highest daily infection rates.
Science Magazine pointed out in an August 16 report that nearly 60 percent of Israeli hospitalized COVID-19 patients were fully vaccinated.
"Israel basically has achieved herd immunity," commented Pacholczyk. "If you look at the rates of vaccination there, it's close to 80 percent of the population that has been vaccinated with Pfizer."
The fact that about 60 percent of COVID cases in Israeli hospitals are fully vaccinated individuals shows, he said, that the ground of the pandemic has shifted and the vaccine has shown itself to be unable to deal with the shift.
"It's a reminder to us that simply because you establish a mandate, you don't necessarily have all the parameters of the moving scientific field taken care of," he said.
"These viruses are complicated, [with] the different variants. And, we're going to have to be flexible here in terms of the modalities of responding in the face of those changes," he added.
While many Canadian institutions, such as the Federal Government, universities, and many businesses, are forcing employees, or students, or staff to be vaccinated, the Toronto Police Association came out strongly yesterday in opposition to a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy announced by the Toronto Police Service.
"Toronto Police Association Opposes Mandatory Vaccination," the title of its announcement states.
"The TPA must make every effort to protect all of our members and therefore, does not support this mandatory vaccination announcement or mandatory disclosure," the police association stated.
Any freedom-loving Canadian must be seriously concerned over the push for vaccine passports with the dubious promise of allowing individuals to re-enter society once they have them. Such a measure especially takes away a citizens' rights to conscience and security of the person. Canadian freedoms are rooted in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not in the reception of an experimental medical intervention.
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