As a Catholic veterinarian who has enjoyed working in both veterinary and human medicine, I bring a unique perspective to the discussion on coronavirus. I’ve dealt with it for years in dogs and cats, and because coronaviruses are among those that cause the common cold in people, I have experience dealing with that as well.
My point in this brief discussion is not to cause controversy or get into too much science, or to convince you to get the shot or not get the shot, but rather try to address some of the confusion surrounding the “vaccines” that may have been inadvertently caused by remarks from our pope and the USCCB. I’ve noticed that many Catholics are confused regarding true church teaching in this matter and are having trouble deciding upon the “right” course of action regarding taking a shot or not.
Our pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals, but not in the day-to-day opinions regarding various matters of health, among other topics. While well-meaning and deserving of consideration, I believe his remarks are medically unfounded and certainly are of no greater importance than anyone’s opinion on the matter, other than as the pope we certainly have an obligation to at the very least hear his opinion.
The pope has made it clear that he stands in favor of the vaccine and any and all boosters that may be recommended or required. He and other church leaders have stated that getting the shot is an “act of love” as well as a “moral obligation.” However, these comments are not infallible despite these leaders thinking we are morally obligated to get the shots. There is no moral obligation as a generic rule for anyone to be forced into taking any vaccine or medication, as healthcare decisions, while requiring prayerful contemplation and careful study (including comments made by church leaders,) are a personal choice (excluding things like suicide, abortion, contraception, and activities which clearly violate the moral order and God’s plan for humanity and for which the church has infallible teaching.) Is it an act of love or moral obligation to be forced or coerced into getting a shot if I have valid medical or moral reason not to get a shot?
According to a USCCB statement regarding the morals of taking the Covid shots: “In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative
vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines. In addition, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community. In this way, 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.”
Again my goal is not to discuss the science behind their recommendations, but as a doctor I can tell you the following in rebuttal to this statement:
1.How can I be “vaccinated safely” when the vaccines were rushed to market with no long-term medical studies regarding safety and efficacy, and in light of the numerous VAERS and other medical reports of serious side effects including death from the shots?
2.Since the shots do not prevent Covid spread, my taking or refusing a vaccine can in no way be considered charitable or uncharitable towards others, for whom my personal health care decision does not affect their health.
3.Since we have safe, effective, and inexpensive treatments/cures for Covid, it would seem to be more charitable to make sure my community knows about these options and has access to them.
4.If I am injured or killed by a medical procedure or vaccine, how does my untimely and unnecessary death contribute to the common good?
If getting a shot is truly a moral obligation, it would seem not getting a shot would rise to the level of sin, which would require reconciliation. However, the church leaders have not stated that this is the case, so it’s unclear why/how getting a shot is a moral obligation.
Nor have church leaders explained why experimental therapies, which is what the shots constitute, should be morally forced upon anyone. The science is clear that the shots are really treatments that don’t always work, and since they don’t stop the spread of the disease it’s hard to appreciate how taking a treatment that only affects the person taking the treatment is an act of love or moral obligation towards the community.
It’s hard to understand how taking a shot is a moral obligation when any vaccine or drug can harm or kill the patient, especially when the side effects from these shots (which were not rigorously tested) are especially high and problematic.
Since the shots have a distant relationship to the act of abortion, it’s hard to understand how using a product related to abortion is a moral obligation or act of love (understanding that no new abortion occurred to produce the shots so if you take the shot the association is distant at best, but still bears a relationship to an evil.) IF the morbidity was particularly serious or burdensome for the majority who contract Covid, or if the mortality from the virus was excessively high, that would be different. But for a disease with a fatality rate of anywhere from 0.02% up to 0.2%, it would seem that distancing ourselves from even a remote act of abortion would be ideal (but certainly not required as the virus does result in some death.)
Again the USCCB makes clear in one of its letters:
“It is morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.”
As a doctor I would propose that there are alternative to vaccination (effective treatments) and the risk to health, based upon mortality figures, would not constitute a “serious” risk to health for most people (again you as an individual would need to assess your own risk, as I am making general statements based upon epidemiological data. Ultimately your own individual health and disease risk should determine your medical decisions more than population statistics.)
For those individuals who think it may be illogical (“crazy”) not to get a Covid shot, would you consider it an act of love if someone refuses the shot, instead volunteering to be a part of the control group (the unvaccinated?) Is it an act of love to refuse the shot so another person might have it available for his or her health care usage? A person who refuses the shot is willing, in the opinions of some, to place his life in danger in order to be part of the control group. Obviously it’s vitally important we get accurate information from those who, for whatever reason, choose not to get the shots. What are their morbidity and mortality rates, and how do these rates compare to those who get the shots? This information is vitally important in understanding the seriousness of any disease, so isn’t their choice also an act of love? It would seem so as they may be sacrificing their lives for the good of society to give us this necessary information.
The USCCB also states “those who refuse to get vaccinated must do their utmost, by taking all the necessary precautions, to avoid “becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.””
I would make 2 comments here. First, this rule would also apply to the vaccinated as they can equally transmit the virus as well. Secondly, while I agree that we always have an obligation to avoid intentionally harming others in various ways, including the spread of infectious diseases, it is interesting that the bishops do not call on those who are most vulnerable of becoming ill or dying from Covid to improve their health status, when possible, through diet, exercise, taking proven supplements to improve one’s immune system, taking steps to reduce or eliminate the various chronic medical disorders (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc.) that may decrease health and increase susceptibility to infection/increased morbidity/increased mortality from an infectious disease, increased sleep, improved faith and prayer life, frequent reception of the sacraments, etc. As a doctor, I can confidently state that improving one’s health (and therefore one’s immune system) is THE most important thing any of us can do to minimize all diseases (and improving your health to keep you a viable member of your family and community would, in my opinion, definitely rise to an act of love and a moral responsibility.)
Finally, the USCCB makes it clear that while they encourage the shot, the choice is up to each believer as medicines and medical procedures are not moral if coerced (are the bishops talking out of both sides of their mouths here, adding to the confusion?)
Is it really an act of love when bishops refuse to allow parish priests to discuss a different viewpoint on this important topic, or when masses are closed to anyone who doesn’t wear a mask or show proof of vaccination? Is Jesus calling us to offer the sacraments only to those who submit to the shots without regard for their own health due to potential long-term side effects? Is it an act of love to fire employees (especially church employees) who refuse to get a shot, or prevent volunteering in church activities? Is it moral to take an experimental shot without knowing long-term side effects (many of which are known or suspected by the pharmaceutical companies but which are intentionally being withheld from the public?) Is it moral to take a shot, experience chronic and debilitating side effects, and then be a burden on society due to the need for continued medical care, the cost of which is borne by the society?
It’s obvious to me as a doctor, who has a totally different medical perspective on all of this, that the bishops, while well-intentioned, are totally wrong in their medical analysis and therefore their conclusions regarding the shots. Because of this, they must be careful in using terms like “act of love” and “moral obligation” which seek to divide rather than unite. We already have low church attendance, and many Catholics don’t follow the correct moral teachings of the church. We shouldn’t risk pushing more away over fear of a virus which is easily treatable and curable for most people. If you choose to get a covid shot and multiple boosters, you have the right to do so, but there is no moral obligation to do so, and it is questionable if your action is an act of love when it has no bearing on your neighbor’s life or health. As I stated in my opening paragraph, my goal with my reflections on this topic are not to divide but hopefully unite. The points I’ve made here I believe are sound ones that involve careful thought and prayer in discerning the proper medical response unique to your situation during this difficult time. Rather than looking at your decision as one of right versus wrong, or moral or immoral, I believe careful reflection on the questions I’ve introduced will help you become morally comfortable with whatever decision you believe is best for your health and the health of your community.