Rav Kanievsky’s ruling on unvaccinated children in yeshiva

Rav Kanievsky’s ruling on unvaccinated children in schools

In the spring of 2012, Rabbi Kanarek from Beis Rivka Rochel in Lakewood asked Dr Shanick to write down his reasons why schools should refuse unvaccinated children; they also asked one of the non-vaccinating parents to write down his justifications, and they sent both documents to Rav Eliezer Dunner of Bnei Brak who presented them to Maran Hagaon Rav Chaim Kanyevsky Shlita, asking him to rule whether schools should accept or refuse children who are not vaccinated. Rav Dunner Shlita wrote back the following:

To whom it may concern

Concerning children whose parents don’t allow them to be vaccinated, I asked מרן הג”ר חיים קניבסקי שליט”א if one has the right to stop them coming to school or חדר because they might cause other children to become ill ח”ו:

He answered that one cannot stop them from coming to school or חדר.

I understood from him that the חשש that these not-vaccinated children could cause other children who were vaccinated to become ill is so remote that this חשש cannot be taken into consideration as a reason to stop the not-vaccinated children from coming to school or חדר.

He added that if there are parents of vaccinated children who are scared that their children might become ill because of those children who are not vaccinated, then they should keep their vaccinated children at home, but I understood from him that since the חשש is so remote, that they don’t have to be scared.

בברכת “והסירותי מחלה מקרבך ואת מספר ימיך אמלא”                          

אליעזר הלוי דינר.                                                                

On the 29th of Tishrei 5774 (Oct. 30th 2014), many Poskim and gedolim signed the following letter:

The Torah commands, ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם (דברים ד, טו). This Biblical commandment requires one to be very vigilant in caring for one’s life, and to refrain from any action that may put his life or health in danger. The benefits and risks of vaccination is a much-debated topic in medical and scientific circles. Although one may follow the opinion of most doctors and choose to vaccinate his children, the individual who has done his research has the obligation to act according to his knowledge. If his research has led him to understand that the risks of vaccination are greater than its benefits, and particularly when his view is supported by many medical doctors and researchers, the commandment of ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם obligates him to shield his children from vaccines. This is even more so when a parent has reasons to believe that his children are sensitive to vaccines. To act otherwise would be a transgression of the above Biblical commandment.

Schools must honor the request for religious exemption from such parents, for it is entirely justified. Coercing parents to vaccinate against their will under the claim of protecting the public is a display of lack of בטחון, for the risk that the unvaccinated children are posing to the public is statistically so small that it is not the duty of a  מאמין בה’ to worry about it (see the letter of Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita. The medical establishment, too, is of the opinion that this risk is insignificant. This is the reason why schools are obligated by law to accept religious exemptions as long as there is no outbreak of preventable disease). Additionally, anyone coercing someone to vaccinate against his better judgment becomes responsible before Hashem for any adverse reaction – big or small – that could result from it, ח”ו.

This letter was signed by (in chronological order):

  • HaRav Shmuel Kamenetzky (R”Y of Philadelphia Yeshiva),
  • HaRav Shmuel Meir Katz (Possek in Lakewood),
  • HaRav Eliezer Halevi Dunner (Rav and Dayan in Bnei Brak),
  • HaRav Arieh Malkiel Kotler (R”Y of BMG, Lakewood),
  • HaRav Binyamin Zev Halpern (Rav in Lakewood),
  • HaRav Elyah Ber Wachtfogel (R”Y of South Fallsburg Yeshiva),
  • HaRav Asher Hashwal (Rav and Dayan in Flatbush),
  • HaRav Mattisyohu Salomon (Mishgiach of BMG, Lakewood) and
  • HaRav Aharon Schechter (R”Y of Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, Flatbush).
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