Catholic school withdraws from vaccination programme
LONDON, ENGLAND - A leading Catholic high school has withdrawn from a nationwide vaccination programme because part of the vaccine was derived 30 years ago from the tissue of an aborted foetus. But a national health care ethics centre has told the British bishops that Catholic parents should feel free to choose whether their children take part in the measles-rubella national vaccination campaign.
The high school, Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire, announced in mid-October that it would not allow its students — all boys — to receive the rubella vaccine. A statement by Benedictine Father Leo Chamberlain, Ampleforth headmaster, said that "an absolute respect for human life requires the condemnation of direct abortion and a refusal to benefit from the products of an evil action."
"Alternative forms of vaccination against measles, which is the main object of the present campaign, are available, and we will seek to make an alternative available," said Father Chamberlain.
He urged drug companies to produce a vaccine from cultures that were universally acceptable. "We believe that now is the time to ensure that the products of abortion are never again used for medical Purposes," he said.
In a letter to parents of the students, Father Chamberlain pointed °ut that if pregnant women caught Nbella, serious harm could be caused t 0 the unborn child. He advised parents to accept the vaccination for fteir daughters. But he asked parents to back the school, a prominent alltoys institution, to press for changes m the vaccine available.
"We must now give witness to values for which we stand," he wrote. The Linacre Centre for Health Care Ethics advised the British bishops that parents who allow their children to be immunised with the rubella vaccine are not condoning abortion. "No abortions have been connected with the production of the rubella vaccine other than the original abortion through which the tissue for the cell line was obtained, and no further abortions are required," the Linacre Centre stated. "So in agreeing to rubella vaccination, one is not failing to prevent further abortions, which some may have imagined were involved in the production of the vaccine," The Linacre Centre acknowledged that parents should recognise the desirability of securing immunity from rubella for their children. "Might there, however, be an obligation to refuse consent to rubella vaccination in order to discourage the demand among biomedical scientists for foetal tissue from aborted babies?" its briefing paper asked. The answer depends on whether people thought their refusal of consent had much chance of discouraging the demand for foetal tissue from aborted babies, the guidance said. Bishop Christopher Budd of Plymouth, England, chairman of the department for Christian responsibility and citizenship of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said Catholic parents could have differing views. "The substantial benefits of this vaccine, for which there is no substitute available, may be accepted," he said. Dr Kenneth Caiman, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has promised that alternative vaccines will be explored after a meeting with representatives of 14 religious groups.
The CatholicNews, November 27, 1994