April 20, 2024

Catholic social teaching and the duty to vaccinate

Ever wondered what Catholicism says about vaccination?

What does Catholicism say about vaccination?

In a target article in the latest edition of the American Journal of Bioethics, two ethicists argue from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) that parents have a duty to vaccinate their children.

Paul J. Carson and Anthony T. Flood of North Dakota State University invoke principles of CST such as “solidarity” and “the common good” to justify mandatory immunisation, arguing that adherents of Roman Catholicism have a social duty to help society achieve herd immunity.

“In the context of vaccination, these principles and values entail a duty to vaccinate. By not vaccinating ourselves and our children, we forsake solidarity with our neighbors and commitment to the common good…refusing vaccination violates the requirements of personal justice insofar as the act fails to give others their due…if a minimal risk on our part greatly decreases the health risks of the vulnerable, we owe it to them to do so.”

Flood and Carson also suggest that the requirements of “distributive justice” demand that Catholics have their children vaccinated.

“The protection against serious infectious diseases constitutes a good that requires a just distribution across society. The vulnerable have a just claim to this good and that entails that those who can receive vaccines should do so.”

Several response articles to the paper discuss the importance of trust in the Christian tradition and in the doctor-patient relationship.

Catholic social teaching and the duty to vaccinate
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
conscientious objection