School immunization policy updated to reflect Catholic teaching

Students at the Archdiocese of Seattle’s 73 Catholic schools must be vaccinated beginning January 1, 2020, unless they have a medical exemption. The archdiocese’s policy was updated to reflect Catholic teaching. Photo: CNS/Brian Snyder, Reuters Students at the Archdiocese of Seattle’s 73 Catholic schools must be vaccinated beginning January 1, 2020, unless they have a medical exemption. The archdiocese’s policy was updated to reflect Catholic teaching. Photo: CNS/Brian Snyder, Reuters

SEATTLE — Students at the archdiocese’s 73 Catholic schools must be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption, under an updated Archdiocese of Seattle policy that takes effect January 1, 2020. However, students not vaccinated will be able to complete the 2019-2020 academic year at their schools.

The policy was updated to be consistent with Catholic teaching that supports immunization for the good of all, said Helen McClenahan, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. The policy also supports vaccinations required by the state of Washington for school attendance.

“It is important everyone understands that the Catholic Church is not opposed to immunizations,” Assistant Superintendent Teresa Fewel wrote in a September 27 letter to principals. “In fact, the Catholic Church has an obligation to protect and promote the welfare of all children and the common good against serious health threats.”

After a measles outbreak in the state, the Legislature passed a law in May 2019 requiring all students attending public and private schools and day cares to have the measles vaccination unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

The Archdiocese’s updated policy means it will no longer accept religious, personal or philosophical exemptions to vaccinations in its schools. Students at all schools operated by the archdiocese must show evidence of vaccination by September 2020.

Catholic teaching regarding immunizations is reflected in a 2017 document from the Pontifical Academy for Life, which states there is a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others.”

While some vaccines are created using cell lines originally derived from aborted human fetuses, the Pontifical Academy for Life concluded: “We believe that all clinically recommended vaccines can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion.”

 

This story has been updated to clarify the Pontifical Academy for Life’s statements about the use of fetal cell lines in the development of vaccines.