Panelists discuss bioethics of COVID-19 vaccine

Photo by Linsey Flinn

Grace Murphy
Staff Writer

Panelists discussed the bioethics surrounding COVID-19 vaccines at a panel discussion Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery.

The panel members were Kevin J. Harris, who holds a doctorate in nursing; Donald Asci, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology; Stephen Hildebrand, who holds a doctorate in theology; and Patrick Lee, who holds a doctorate in philosophy.

Each panel member gave a brief opening commentary about COVID vaccinations, the Church’s stance on vaccines and vaccine mandates.

Harris said that as a nursing professor, he was concerned about how the Trinity Health vaccine mandates would affect nursing students who did not wish to get the vaccine but needed to complete clinicals.

Harris said he met with theology and philosophy professors to compose a letter requesting religious exemption from the COVID vaccine for nursing students, social work students and others who might be required to receive the vaccine to complete their coursework. Harris said this letter inspired the panel discussion.

Asci spoke on the Vatican documents about vaccines.

“If it is possible for you to get an exemption where you have a conscientious objection, you actually have an obligation to perhaps seek that objection if you really do object in your conscience,” said Asci.

Lee spoke on the morality of vaccinations with regard to their connection to aborted babies.

“It is not intrinsically immoral; it’s benefitting from a previous evil,” said Lee. “You could call it passive material cooperation. I would sometimes call it procreation, but benefitting from a previous evil is not in itself intrinsically evil.”

Audience members asked the various panel members questions about the COVID vaccine and vaccine mandates.

A senior nursing major concluded the panel by explaining the contents of a COVID vaccination information packet. The packet included a sample letter of exemption, locations of vaccine sites and sources for Church documents on vaccinations.

Freshman Caroline Shields said, “I think it was a really good discussion of the different sides of the vaccine and what our consciences are telling us especially from the Catholic viewpoint.”

Sophomore Rachel Lomasney said, “It was very fair on both sides, very unbiased.”