[Avodah] Vaccinations, a teshuvah by Rav Asher Weiss
micha at aishdas.org
Mon Apr 15 10:21:04 PDT 2019
The RCA is asking people to share this teshuvah by R Asher Weiss.
R Gil Student posted a translation by R Elli Fischer that was reviewed
and approved by RAW.
Many poskim and communal leaders have asked me whether parents are
obligated to inoculate their children by means of generally accepted
vaccines in order to prevent terrible diseases, because some important
rabbanim recently expressed the following opinion: Since there is
concern that vaccination damages health, not only is it permissible not
to vaccinate children, but it is even recommended not to vaccinate
In my humble opinion, this is an error. Rather, parents obviously have
an obligation to vaccinate their children, and I have ruled that it is
even permissible for parents to organize themselves in order to force
educational institutions not to accept unvaccinated pupils. I will
explain my thinking and my reasoning.
However, it seems that even if we would say that an individual can
evade [vaccination] and still claim that he has kept his child safe, it
would nevertheless stand to reason that there is an obligation to
vaccinate children, and for two reasons:
1. I have explained elsewhere that any idea or action that would cause
damage and injustice if done en masse, even if it would cause no
harm, injustice, or evil when done by an individual, may
nevertheless not be done by an individual. It is not just or right
for an individual to do what the masses may not do. Such a person
is a villain with license from the Torah ("naval birshus
ha-Torah"), for due to the honesty of the masses who walk the
straight path in their innocence, this person will conduct himself
differently and derive unfair benefit.
We learn this from the Bavli, the Yerushalmi, and Midrashei Chazal.
2. It seems that this halakhah can be derived from the obligation of
all residents of a city to take part in guarding the city and
repairing its walls, as explained in Bava Basra (8a) and in
Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 163)...
This all applies in a case where one can refrain from vaccinating
his children without risking their health, because enough others do
vaccinate. The present situation is far more severe, though, and we
need not resort to creative readings of aggados to determine that
vaccination of children is obligatory. The disease has broken out
already, and every parent who refuses to vaccinate his children is
placing them directly in harm's way.
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