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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 16, Issue 2, Summer 2016

Gwyneth A. Spaeder, MD
Pages 245-254

The Moral Obligation to Vaccinate
Autonomy and the Common Good

The widespread availability of effective vaccines against life-threatening infections has been one of the greatest public health achievements. Unfounded but widely circulated safety concerns about some vaccines and ethical concerns about the derivation of others have caused a decline in the number of immunized individuals in the United States. Exploring distinctions between formal and material cooperation in evil provides reassurance that, in the absence of alternatives, Catholics may, in good conscience, receive vaccines originally derived from fetal tissue obtained from abortions. Examining Catholic teaching on the individual’s responsibility to the common good shows that, in the absence of medical contraindications, each person has a duty to receive currently recommended vaccinations.