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Religious leaders call swine flu vaccination 'a moral obligation'

October 16, 2009 | 11:40 am

Pig In its weekly blog on issues of religious faith, the Washington Post asked 50 religious leaders about the ethics of declining to be vaccinated against pandemic H1N1 influenza. The vast majority of them considered getting the vaccine a moral obligation.

Among the most pertinent observations:

Susan K. Smith, senior pastor of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, said, "When I heard reports of people protesting the fact that they might be forced to get the vaccine (healthcare workers), I groaned. There are times when this 'These are our rights' battle cry gets exhausting. When does the well-being of the society take precedence over individual rights? Why is it more important for one to declare his or her 'rights' than for that individual to want to help halt the spread of a disease that is, apparently, threatening to become a pandemic?

"There is a time, I think, when individual rights have to take a back seat to the well-being of the institution or society. If getting an H1N1 vaccine will help keep more people well, then I think we ought to get it. Saving masses of people from illness or possibly death by getting a shot is not an infringement on my rights. It is a moral and ethical obligation."

And Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles noted, "When we refuse a child a vaccination, we are violating the rationale for having children. We are unnecessarily endangering others. Not only is one's own child at risk. Vaccinations are a barrier against contagion. In unvaccinated populations, everyone is at risk ... Can there be a more urgent religious imperative than to prevent harm to one's own child, and to others?

"To vaccinate is a religious obligation. To refuse protection for a serious disease is a sin."

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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