Catholic doctors cannot refuse COVID-19 vaccines on moral or religious grounds in Tasmania

Religious anti-vaxxers not exempt from vaccines

Conservative catholic anti-vaxxer doctors, nurses and other health workers who oppose mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations on moral or "conscience grounds" will not be allowed to refuse the vaccine in Tasmania.

The state government, and other jurisdictions, are making vaccinations mandatory for all health workers in the public and private healthcare systems, leading the Catholic Medical Association of Australia (CMAA) to call for the right to a "conscientious objection to vaccination".

The association rejects the AstraZeneca vaccination because it was developed from cells of an aborted foetus, and says vaccines can be rejected on moral grounds, but also due to a lack of research, testing and knowledge about future side effects.

Huon Labor MLC Bastian Seidel raised the issue in budget estimates, asking Health minister Jeremy Rockliff whether the government would consider this objection for health professionals, and also health workers such as hospital contractors.

Health Department secretary Katherine Morgan-Wicks said it would not consider it.

"In terms of [the objection], whether on a religious ground or other, an employee is entitled to have that and to maintain it, however, we have a range of options that we will work through with each individual in relation to that," she said.

"A mandatory public health direction at the moment does not include a conscientious objection ground for examption."

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A statement form CMAA's chaplains said people have a responsibility to care for their body, and a "reasoned objection" to the risk of side effects in the short and long term should be allowed as it relates to the Catholic religion's understanding of "conscience".

This "conscience" was explained by the chaplains as being the "intimate core and sanctuary of the human person; the place of encounter with God", which is an inner voice that must be followed, that urges followers "to do good and to avoid evil, that speaks the truth, and guides us in judgement of particular acts".

"Within the sphere of medical practice, it is expected that one should give informed consent before submitting to any treatment. In line with consent, what one allows to have done to one's body also pertains to the dictates of conscience," they said.

"The administration of a COVID vaccine necessarily falls within this domain of concern. And it should be acknowledged, as with any case of conscience, that it is possible for individuals to have legitimate qualms of conscience with regards to particular vaccinations."

They add that when people do object to vaccines, they also must adhere to the duty to promote the common good, and take action to prevent the spread of disease.

"'Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted foetuses, must do their utmost to avoid... becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent'."

This story Religious anti-vaxxers not exempt from vaccines first appeared on The Examiner.