The following segment is an excerpt from a future, broader, article about vaccines and Halacha which is currently under research and in the process of being written.
The Rebbe’s opinion on vaccinations:
As is known a Jew is obligated according to Torah law to guard his health. According to Halacha, the opinion of professional doctors and health care providers are the sole authorities in regard to all health matters.
Accordingly, the Rebbe throughout his life encouraged people who turned to him for advice to follow the directives of the doctors and medical community and explained that the Torah gave them the power to heal, and one is Halachically obligated to adhere to their directives due to the principal that guiding ones health is a Torah command.
The case of vaccinations is no different. The Rebbe encouraged people to immunize themselves and their children with the recommended vaccinations that are customarily taken by the masses to prevent the spread of disease and negated those who argued that it should not be done due to worry of possible side effects, or death. The Rebbe also encouraged that the vaccine used should be produced by the most medically reliable and professional pharmaceutical companies.
While the Rebbe’s opinion is not necessarily intended to be universal and all-inclusive for all people and for all manufactured vaccines, in all situations, it does give a general perspective that one should not shrug off and ignore the recommendations of vaccinating oneself and his children, and as in all matters that relate to health, one is to speak to his professional health care provider to receive guidance in any cases of doubt or question.
It is both strange and ironic that there exist those who refuse to use contact lenses and perform sonograms due to the Rebbe’s undocumented claimed position on this matter, and at the same time refuse to give their children vaccines despite the Rebbe’s very well documented position on its necessity. The following are excerpts from the letters and talks in which the Rebbe discussed vaccinations.
1. Listen to your Doctor! Vaccines prevent illness-Take them:
“The Torah obligates that in matters of health one must consult with a doctor and obey his instructions. Now, there are two approaches to medicine, one being healing through finding a cure for a current illness, and the second being preventive medicine. It is clearly understood that preventive medicine is the ideal and most desirable any way you look at it, including cost, not to mention the fact it prevents illness and suffer r”l. In addition, it prevents needing to resort to more complex medical intervention such as surgery, which is sometimes necessary when dealing with an existing condition. In order for preventive medicine to be most beneficial, it requires one to commence prevention at the earliest possible age, beginning with vaccinations, brushing the teeth to prevent cavities, and a balanced diet etc.”
2. Doctors have the Torah right to administer preventive medicine in the form of vaccines:
“In reply to your query as to whether doctors are [according to Torah] only permitted to heal a current condition or may also administer preventive medicine, such as vaccines. Preventive medicine has been administered by the most distinguished Gedolei Yisrael on a regular basis.”
3. One is to take vaccines and rely on the medical community and its successful administration:
“The deaths that resulted in America from vaccinations occurred at the early onset of the use of the vaccine, prior to its conclusive ingredient list being established. Now, however, after several months of experience with the vaccine and its medical corroboration, there is no worry at all against taking it, and on the contrary [one is to do so].”
4. If most people in one’s country and city vaccinate, one is not to exclude himself from doing so:
“That which you write regarding vaccinations, in this country it is customary to vaccinate all the children. Nonetheless, prior to doing so, the manufacturer of the vaccine and its ingredients should be verified that it has been tested and successfully administered. Being that you write that many people in your city vaccinate their children, you should not exclude yourself from doing so.”
5. Urgent! I have already answered many people that since most people do it, one should do so as well:
“Due to the urgent nature of your query regarding vaccinations, I am replying to your question before even the other most pressing letters. It is a wonder that you ask your question [regarding whether you should vaccinate] as many have already asked me this in Eretz Hakodesh and I have replied in the affirmative, that since close to all people vaccinate, and successfully [therefore, you too should do so].
6. Vaccinate your child if it is done to majority of the children in his class:
“In reply to your query regarding my opinion on vaccinations that are commonly given to young children, with regards to these matters, the Talmudic dictum of “Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur/Do not separate from the community” applies. Therefore, you should act according to that which is practiced by the majority of children who are in your children’s class.
7. Polio vaccine-Since close to everyone already does so, it is proper to do so:
“To Nishei Ubenos Chabad. In response to your query regarding the Polio vaccine for children [and if the residents of Kfar Chabad should be vaccinated for it], it has already been administered in many countries, and in the USA close to everyone does so, and successfully, and therefore it is proper to do so. Regarding the company brand that you should choose for the vaccine, this is dependent on quality and reliability, and one should choose the best one after doing the proper research.”
8. No Kashrus issue involved in taking vaccines-but choose a reliable brand:
“That which you ask if one may use vaccines if they contain non-Kosher ingredients, every day people do so even amongst the G-d fearing without any question, as it is permitted to benefit from non-kosher foods. Regarding the Polio shot, it is done even by the most G-d fearing and there is no Kashrus worry of doing so, although one should verify that the vaccine comes from a reliable company.”
9. The lesson in Avodas Hashem from vaccines:
“Several decades ago, medicine discovered that the body could avoid certain diseases through vaccination. The vaccination works through stimulating the body, through injecting it with a weakened version of those diseases, to create antibodies to guard against them. The lesson in service of G-d that can be learned from this is that minor challenges and difficulties which people face in new endeavors should be viewed as a vaccine against a more severe challenge later on.”
For additional reading and sources, visit shulchanaruchharav.com/