- The Iona Institute - https://ionainstitute.ie -

There is a duty to take the vaccine, but it should not be compelled

The Iona Institute has asked a number of Catholic moral theologians and philosophers to respond to a number of questions about whether there is a moral duty to take one of the Covid vaccinations when offered one, whether they should be a legal compulsion to do so, and finally whether companies such as airlines should be allowed to refuse service to anyone who has not taken a vaccine.

The first responses to these questions are offered by Fr Vincent Twomey, one of the most distinguished and senior Catholic moral theologians in the country.


Q1. Is there a moral duty on each of us to take one of the vaccines?

The short answer is: Yes, under certain conditions, namely:

That the vaccines are as safe as possible. That means that they have been tested under the most rigorous conditions and have been declared safe by the appropriate medical and governmental authorities. Only those suitably qualified and professionally recognized as such can judge their safety. The rest, including moral theologians, are at the mercy of their judgement. Such testing usually/typically requires (a) years of careful testing with regard to their effectiveness as well with regard to possible side-effects and (b) that, once the required rigorous testing on animals has been proven to be successful, equally rigorous testing has been successfully carried out with regard

to different categories of people (children, youth, adults, pregnant women, those with common allergies, and the aged). However, given the gravity of the pandemic, if rigorous testing has been achieved and the vaccine has been approved in a shorter space of time, it would not seem appropriate to accept the vaccine only after years of results have been amassed.

Q2. Should we be legally compelled to do so if we refuse?

Unequivocally, No.


Q3. Should companies be allowed to deny us access to certain services (like air travel) if we won’t take a vaccine?

The short answer is No:

Vincent Twomey, SVD

Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth)

January, 2021


[1] [6] Recommended reading: NCBCVaccineStatementFINAL.pdf (squarespace.com) [7]

[2] [8] Note on the morality of using some anti [9] [9]Covid [9] [9]19 vaccines (21 December 2020) (vatican.va) [9]

[3] [10] Cf. the statement of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and the Instruction of the CDF, Dignitatis Personae, 2008.

[4] [11] This is the case, even though the present vaccines on offer, which are recognized to be ethically compromised, (albeit remotely, because of the use of stem-cells that originated in an abortion either in the production or the testing of certain vaccines – or both), have been judged licit by reputable theologians, Bishops, and it would seem, most importantly, the CDF.

[5] [12] See, for example, the conscientious objection to World War II made by the Austrian farmer, Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter, whose “conscience prevailed over the path of least resistance.”, as it says on the Vatican Website.

(6) It is of note that protests by animal-rights protagonists in the UK to the use of animal tallow in the production of their new plastic currency forced the UK Government to find alternative material.

[7] [13] The pandemic has taken surveillance of workers to the next level | Rachel Connolly | Opinion | The Guardian [14] 8Concerns about privacy protections are particularly acute in Europe, where officials have called for collaborative efforts that would include intense oversight to make sure users know when and how personal data is being exploited.” Cf.   [15]COVID [15] [15]19 tracing apps: Which countries are doing what | World [15] [15]Gulf News [15] [Norway and Austria, it seems, had to roll back their mobile tracing systems, as they were considered a breach of privacy, but I have no reference to published reports of same.]