A rabbinical court handed down a ruling on the controversial issue of injecting children with the new COVID vaccine. The court (Beit Din) consisted of a three-member panel located in Ma’ale Adumim just outside of Jerusalem and headed by Rabbi Avraham Yechiel Deutsch. The court was assembled to investigate the question of COVID vaccinations for children and listened to hours of expert testimony, some of which can be viewed in English here.
In their 33-page ruling, the rabbis explored some of the key issues and brought sources from centuries-old Jewish legal precedents. Starting with the question of medical expertise, the ruling examined whether contemporary doctors and health officials should be accorded the status of “experts” whose opinion could be binding with regard to the issue of vaccinating children against COVID. According to Jewish law, an expert is someone who is familiar with the disease; this would thus exclude most doctors and health officials today, since most of them have not treated child COVID patients. Even those doctors who are familiar with the disease in adults acknowledge that the disease is constantly evolving and that their knowledge of how to treat it is both insufficient and swiftly outdated.
In addition, since there are differences of opinion amongst the “experts,” there is no fixed “opinion of the experts” according to Jewish legal principles, unlike, for example, the case of the smallpox vaccine when most experts recommended using the vaccine. In the current situation, however, there are many heads of children’s hospitals and also pediatricians who admit they have no expertise or even experience with COVID vaccination in children; therefore, according to Jewish law, they cannot be considered experts.
The court also heard testimony from top professionals who have been involved in vaccine production [unnamed, but they could be referring to Drs. Robert Malone and Michael Yeadon] who claimed that they “have never before encountered something that could be so potentially dangerous to kids as this vaccine.”
Furthermore, it is not possible to conclude with any certainty that there is definite benefit to vaccinating children, as the vaccine is still new and under study; in addition, the risk posed to children by COVID itself is negligible.
The ruling addressed the ethical question of vaccinating children to protect other, more vulnerable people, writing that, “We have not found a source that permits endangering someone in order to only possibly save someone else from a questionable danger.” However, one needs to be cautious with this principle: For example, a person is permitted to donate a kidney for someone who needs one, since this is a direct life-saving need, and not a remote possibility. Therefore, it appears that if there is no direct benefit to the child, injecting him with the vaccine is prohibited.
Assuming there is some benefit to the child, the court concluded that, “It is stated explicitly in Jewish law that a person is not obligated to place himself in possible danger in order to save another from certain danger.” With COVID the danger is not certain, and therefore one is certainly not obligated to endanger oneself. The question of whether this vaccine actually reduces the risk to others was not specifically addressed, although the assumption was that it would, and even in that event, it would still not obligate a person to be vaccinated; and this is certainly the case if the vaccine does not reduce the risk to others.
The court also acknowledged that many people have suffered significant adverse reactions from receiving the shot, and the rabbis also heard testimony stating that many reactions are not being reported, including three instances witnessed firsthand at a local emergency room, where the doctors acknowledged the vaccine as the cause but failed to report the adverse events.
In its summary statement (also translated into English), the court emphasized that:
– All its witnesses were people who support the general principle of vaccination;
– A true expert consensus has not yet formed, since many medical professionals who support COVID shots for kids do so with some hesitancy;
– COVID is a relatively low threat to children’s health;
– The danger posed to others by an unvaccinated child is very remote;
– Serious adverse reactions have occurred and are underreported;
– Experts who disagree with recommending COVID shots for children fall into three categories:
1) Those who consider the risk they pose to children to be similar to that already observed in adults;
2) Those who fear the risk to children is potentially greater than that to adults;
3) Those who fear an irreversible global disaster that may only present itself in the long term.
In conclusion, the ruling avoided giving a single recommendation for everyone; instead, the rabbis wrote that each person must weigh the various expert opinions for himself. However, the court warned that a person who vaccinates a child and causes his death is responsible for that injury and is to be considered a “murderer.” He cannot excuse himself by saying that he “followed the opinion of experts who say it is a life-preserving substance, and not a deadly poison.”
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