Get vaccinated: Choose solidarity and fraternity

Since the beginning of COVID-19, Pope Francis has regularly reiterated his extreme concern for the sick, their loved ones and those who care for them.

He’s also insisted that the world and the societies that gave rise to this pandemic must “heal globally”.

To help in the effort towards developing a global response, the pope set up the Vatican COVID-19 Commission last April, involving various institutions of the Holy See.

This commission, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life, published a seven-page note on December 29 that deserves to be known for its reasonable and audacious ethical balance.

Its title sets the tone: “Vaccine for all. 20 points for a fairer and healthier world”.

The “anti-vaxxers” were no doubt waiting for the “Vatican” to find something to say about the advisability of getting vaccinated, especially since some American Catholics say the vaccine must be rejected because of its use of abortion byproducts.

But the Vatican note rejects this argument.

“The criteria that would make ethically illicit the decision to vaccinate are non-binding (sic.),” it says.

The pope went even further during an interview aired on January 9th in Italian TV when he spoke of the “suicidal negationism” of the “anti-vaxxers”.

In other words, even though the expression is no longer found in the final version of “Vaccine for all”, it is not a “prophetic position” to oppose the vaccine.

This is also true for those self-proclaimed experts who do not follow the rules of scientific research but are predicting the apocalypse.

The seven-page Vatican note sets the tone right from the introduction.

It says it is a question of combining immediate measures with long-term ones; favouring “a global cure, with local flavour”; and considering both the individual and the collective, in order to respond not only to the immediate hic et nunc, but by aiming for “a global and regenerative ‘healing'”.

Throughout, one sees at work the famous principle Francis evokes so often: “everything is connected”.

The incentive to get the vaccine incentive does not come from coercion, but through reasoned argument.

Everyone has the personal responsibility to seriously consider the data, because refusal to get the vaccine puts at risk, not only oneself but also our loved ones and those who cannot be vaccinated because of other conditions.

In short, not getting the vaccine endangers public health, the health system and our hospitals.

We are all interdependent! Vaccination is therefore a true moral responsibility that everyone must personally choose to assume.

Finally, the Vatican note commits the Church to carry out a six-point “action plan”.

The Holy See offers itself as a platform for partnership and participation that involves the local churches, collaborates with the large global structures, and participates in the shared evaluation, all in the “service of healing the world” and taking “care of the common home”.

No recent ethical text has taken this perspective of global bioethics so far. Moreover, it constitutes one of the fields of research at the world level for the Pontifical Academy for Life.

For all that, this is no pipe dream. The analysis and the proposals are eminently realistic. It is normal that laboratories seek a commercial return, but this cannot be the only objective!

The entire vaccine cycle must be considered from its conception to its manufacturing and its distribution.

As a “common good”, the vaccine must also be shared with the least developed countries. This is a question of justice, solidarity, subsidiarity and fraternity.

We cannot say it enough: only together will humanity win the battle against COVID-19.

  • Marie-Jo Thiel is professor of Catholic theology at the University of Strasbourg in France and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: ,