Only 74% of Irish trust medical vaccines
Colm Fitzpatrick and Chai Brady
Parents are morally obliged to vaccinate their children if it poses a serious risk to their health, priests and theologians have said.
With over 20 confirmed measles cases in the Dublin area since the beginning of the year, and other fringe outbreaks in Donegal, religious and ethicists are urging parents to vaccinate their children.
“If there’s a danger of a child contracting a grave illness and there’s vaccination readily available that’s affordable without controversial side effects, then there is an onus on parents to avail of that,” Fr Alan O’Sullivan OP told The Irish Catholic, adding that this moral duty can shift depending on the seriousness of the disease.
Likewise, Fr Michael Shorthall, secretary of the Irish Bishops’ Consultative Group on Bioethics and Life Questions agrees that parents have a moral obligation to take their children’s health seriously.
“In Catholic teaching, there is a concept called the common good and one aspect of the common good is public health. So, parents by vaccinating their children, they’re not just protecting their children – making choices about their children – but they’re making choices, in effect, about their community and they relate to the community,” Fr Shorthall said.
The comments come as a new survey carried out by biomedical research charity Wellcome has revealed that Ireland’s trust of medical vaccines is lower than the international average, sitting at a mere 74%.
With the spread of infectious diseases becoming more widespread due to a failure to vaccinate, the Department of Health said that it is considering introducing mandatory vaccinations.
“The Minister’s [Simon Harris] priority is to increase vaccination rates across the country and he is exploring a number of options in this area. In this regard, the Minister wrote to the Attorney General to seek legal advice as to the Constitutionality of introducing schemes of mandatory vaccination.
While DCU lecturer and theologian Dr John Murray has said the government and Church has a duty to inform and provide accurate information to its citizens about the medical procedure, as well as make sure that resources “are readily available”, concerns have been raised about whether enforcing vaccinations is a step too far.
“I think that would be the State overstepping the mark actually. You’ve got to be careful of what’s called today the ‘granny State’ or the ‘parent State’ which tries to substitute at the times the role of parent,” Fr O’Sullivan said. He added: “The parents have the major cooperative role in raising the child, and the State only intervenes in extraordinary circumstances. It doesn’t become the ordinary educator of facilitator.”
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