The much-anticipated COVID vaccine has arrived, bringing hope to many. As our worldwide grief over lives altered and lost continues, we’re all looking for a little light.
That said, as much as we’d like to think “We’re all in this together,” we are unique individuals with different perspectives. And degrees of receptivity toward this vaccine range from exuberant embrace to robust rejection, with good reason.
My intention isn’t to judge anyone’s decision for or against the vaccine. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s hopes, nor dismiss well-respected medical experts and moral leaders who’ve assured us we can receive the vaccine safely and with a clear conscience. But all considerations matter in this critical time, when so much has been thrust on us – and so fast.
The argument for vaccination has been well-promoted. But in watching conversations in faith circles, I’ve seen another viewpoint meriting fair reflection. It’s largely moral and insists on slowing down and deliberating further.
Simply put, some don’t feel ready, and may never be ready, and they shouldn’t be pushed or shamed. In a free society, decisions of the conscience ought never be forced.
Some maintain the only compassionate choice comes in an unflinching “yes.” To save the planet, everyone must vaccinate. From there, one reasons that anyone who forgoes vaccination lacks compassion. But is this true or fair?
Recently, some friends shared their hesitancy and questions: 1) Do we know the vaccines are safe and effective? 2) What if I don’t want any part of something that has touched abortion, even remotely? 3) Do I have the freedom to make medical choices for myself? 4) Shouldn’t we weigh risks and benefits – such as not pushing this on those less prone to contracting COVID? 5) Is the disease worse than the cure?
I’ll admit to struggling to accept a vaccination that has benefited, in any measure, from a small human being killed by human hands. Though theologians have gone to great lengths to explain how we can, in fact, be at peace with such a scenario, and church leaders have made statements to free us from any torment of conscience, questions persist.
It’s exceedingly hard to jump from “Abortion is always wrong” to “I’m OK taking a vaccination that has touched abortion.”
Dr. Janet E. Smith’s article, “The Morality of the Covid-19 Vaccines,” conveys well the wrestling going on in the souls of some, and could help others trying to understand the conundrum people with a bothered conscience face.
In the meantime, it’s important we allow the reluctant to continue probing this situation freely. And if some cannot, with clear mind and heart, hold out their arms for the COVID inoculation immediately, or ever, others should be okay with that discerning pause.
Thankfully, while promoting the vaccine, our Catholic bishops also have assured us of the freedom to pass. Compassion, after all, comes in many forms, and we shouldn’t judge anyone saying “Not yet” to this vaccine, especially at this uncertain—and, yes, still early—hour.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Jan. 18, 2021.]