Torah For Today: Covid-19 vaccines

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Torah For Today: Covid-19 vaccines

Rabbi Shauly Strom takes a topical issue and looks at an Orthodox response

Covid vaccine
Covid vaccine

News of coronavirus vaccines have filled the world with a renewed sense of hope and optimism for the coming months. What does the Torah say about such medical innovations? 

While the news is welcome, it will also no doubt spark a cacophony of dilemmas, particularly in relation to which countries and indeed which individuals will have priority over receiving the vaccine. 

As is the case with regards to many ethical dilemmas surrounding medical advancements, such a debate isn’t a new discussion in the world of medicine or indeed halacha.  

The Talmud debates this very idea, concerning a case where a country has control over a natural water supply of another country.  

Leaving the minutiae aside, the sages are unanimous in their opinion, that when it is a question of pikuach nefesh – life-threatening circumstance – they must share their resources equally.  

This particular debate, however, concerns one society’s economic and health well-being over another society’s basic needs.  

The Talmud concludes that one society may not use its water for laundry if another is struggling to provide drinking water for its inhabitants, as one society’s peace of mind does not take precedence over another’s ease of access to life-dependant resources for drinking. 

The halachic conclusion of this case may well provide an interesting insight into the discussions that may arise when distributing this vaccine globally. 

Which individuals, industries and countries will be deemed more essential than others – and, importantly, who will hold the ethical monopoly on this decision? 

  • Rabbi Shauly Strom is director of Northern Campuses for Aish UK

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