Question to Rabbi: Whom do you vaccinate first?

R' Yuval Sherlow to Arutz Sheva: Before ethics & priorities for vaccinations can be discussed, trust in public servants must be restored.

Tags: Coronavirus
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus vaccine

Rabbi Yuval Sherlow, head of the ethics committee at the Tzohar rabbinical organization and the Orot Shaul yeshiva, discussed the issue of prioritizing vaccine use ahead of the introduction of coronavirus medicines into health systems in Israel and around the world.

Rabbi Sherlow began by stating that although there are two critical issues at play, but one that precedes both –nurturing public trust in the system.

According to Sherlow, "public trust has been broken." In his opinion, we will receive a very disturbing answer "if we ask people how much they trust the system following the events of this past Passover when a number of Knesset members violated coronavirus health guidelines. There is a large gap between what the leadership demands of others and what it demands of itself."

Because of this, said the rabbi, "it is important to build a system that will honestly work for the good of the nation, and not according to who's got the upper hand." Rabbi Sherlow raised concerns that without such trust, "many ethical discussions regarding medical priorities will remain in the realm of academia and public debate, while the low level of trust makes a laughingstock of the entire debate."

We asked Sherlow if the ship had sailed for restoring public trust in the system. "If this is the case," he points out, "there is no point in public debate since it will be done in show with the entire moral code already having collapsed." "But I believe Man was made in the image of God and public trust can still be restored. There is always a way back. Running the country in an ethically ethical manner is an important task."

Sherlow said that once the question of trust is dealt with, the ethical dilemmas surrounding the treatment remain prioritizing vaccination. He says the first to receive the treatment should be medical staff members and hospital workers facing the highest danger of getting sick. From there, he states, there are two schools of thought. According to one, the risk factor should play the determining role. Individuals from older population groups and those at risk to contract the virus should be next in line.

However, there is another school of thought that, individuals in positions of public service should be treated first. "This may work out better but is not feasible," stated Sherlow. "If we start trying to decide who is more important than who, it may never end. That means the first option is the only practical path."

"Another question that has arisen in recent days is one of forced vaccination. This is a fascinating issue that should be taken off the table because it is impossible from the practical standpoint. There is a misconception among government officials that if a law is passed, it will make things easier. But it doesn't work that way," said Sherlow. However, the rabbi believes a discussion on this " fascinating" issue should still take place.

"If those who do not get vaccinated endanger the public, surely the public is allowed to defend itself and force those individuals to do so. However, individual rights also exist and people are at liberty to turn down injections they believe pose a risk to their health. I believe that of all medical procedures, vaccines are the most significant revolution in the medical world, but you can't force people to do everything you want them to," he says.

Because of this, Rabbi Sherlow believes, "people should not be vaccinated by force, but restrictions can be imposed, and those who refuse the treatment should not be allowed into areas where they pose a high risk of infection." "The individual also bears a moral responsibility to the rest of society," he says.

We asked for Rabbi Sherlow's reference to the question raised by Bill Gates regarding prioritizing vaccinations for countries that were first to acquire the medicine, placing poor states with the greatest infection rates at the back of the line.

Here, too, the rabbi believes that the question is not entirely practical because "countries will look out for themselves before taking care of others." "There is also a fascinating Torah concept regarding saving your own life before someone else's," he stipulates. "It's OK if a country looks out for its own citizens before helping others. But this has to be done in proportion. Some people are at a very low risk compared to others, so the concept of saving yourself doesn't work here since you're spoiling yourself instead of guaranteeing others will survive. In this case, it is correct to set aside funds for others to get the vaccine as well."