ROME — President Joe Biden urged Americans in a press briefing Tuesday to all get vaccinated, insisting Pope Francis has called receiving the shot a “moral obligation.”
“People are coming together across the different faiths to serve those most in need, with a special focus on vaccinating seniors from all races, backgrounds, and walks of life,” Biden said. “It’s an example of America at its finest.”
“And they’re all meeting what Pope Francis calls the ‘moral obligation,’” he continued. “Get vaccinated — something which can, he went on to say, can save your life and the lives of others.”
“We’re still in a life-and-death race against this virus,” the president said, before launching his imperative directly to the elderly. “It’s simple: Seniors, it’s time for you to get vaccinated now. Get vaccinated now.”
While Pope Francis may have never used the expression “moral obligation” when speaking of vaccinations, he has clearly expressed his conviction that getting vaccinated against the virus is the right thing to do.
“I think ethically that everyone should take the vaccine,” the pope told Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona in a television interview last January. “It should be done.”
“It is not an option — ‘I think so, I don’t think so’ — it’s an ethical choice, because you gamble with your health, you gamble with your life, and you gamble with other people’s lives,” the pontiff declared.
“I don’t know why some people say, ‘no, the vaccine is dangerous,’” Francis continued. “Doctors are proposing it as something that can be helpful and as something without special dangers, why wouldn’t you take it?”
“There’s a sort of suicidal denialism at play that I can’t explain,” he declared. “Today, you should get the vaccine.”
The Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF), however, released a formal statement in December clarifying that getting vaccinated does not constitute a moral obligation and must be voluntary.
Practical reason “makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary,” the CDF declared.
The text adds that from the ethical point of view, “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good, which may “recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”
The CDF note stated that it is morally imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines “are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them.”