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    Measles & vaccination – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. There have been outbreaks of measles worldwide, including in some charedi communities in the USA and elsewhere where childhood vaccination has sometimes not been practiced.* Is there a Jewish view about vaccination?

    A. There seems to be a fear in some circles that vaccination can have problematical side effects. Medical opinion assures the public that such fears are unfounded with all the constant refinement of medical procedures.

    There is a string of rabbinic statements advising parents not to withhold vaccination: the 19th century authority Rav Yisrael Lifschitz, for example, said that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks, and vaccination is permitted in halachah.

    Leading recent authorities strongly advise parents to have their children vaccinated. An example is Rav Moshe Feinstein (Ig’rot Moshe, Orach Chayyim vol. 2, chapter 100).

    Relevant halachic principles are: one must avoid danger (Ket. 41b, Yoreh Deah 167, Choshen Mishpat 427); the accredited doctor has God’s licence to heal (Ex. 21:19 and commentaries); one must not simply say, “The Lord protects the simple” (Psalm 116:6).

    One of the detailed studies of the issue is Asher Bush, “Vaccination in Theory and Practice”, in “Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought”, vol. 13 (2012).

    * This article first appeared in 2019.

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