People should take the Covid-19 vaccine, says Catholic Church

(Photo: Unsplash/Martin Sanchez)

Taking a Covid-19 vaccine is the "most effective way" for Catholics to do their "duty" of protecting others in the pandemic, the Catholic Church has said.

The UK's health regulator this week approved the Pfizer vaccine, with the first vaccinations to start as early as next Tuesday, according to Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers. 

First in line to receive the jabs are elderly people in care homes and care home staff, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales is encouraging people to take the vaccination.

"The development of a vaccine against Covid-19 presents an important breakthrough in protecting others as well as oneself from the virus; a virus which has not only caused a global pandemic and led to a huge loss of life but has also placed a great burden on healthcare workers and systems," it said in a statement.

"Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate."

The bishops added, however, that it was a matter of individual conscience to take vaccinations, especially the Astra Zeneca vaccine that was developed using cells from a fetus aborted in 1983. 

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy of Life have expressed the view that one may in good conscience and for a grave reason receive a vaccine sourced in this way, provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action," the bishops said.

"In the Covid-19 pandemic, we judge that this grave reason exists and that one does not sin by receiving the vaccine."

The statement concludes: "Each Catholic must educate his or her conscience on this matter and decide what to do, also bearing in mind that a vaccine must be safe, effective, and universally available, especially to the poor of the world.

"Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves. In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection."