- Question: [Thursday, 23rd Sivan 5781]
I live in Brazil where the Covid crisis is rampant, deadly, and unbearable on the healthcare system and was lucky enough to have a Covid vaccine secured on my behalf. There are not enough vaccines and not everyone is eligible to receive it. The problem is that the date that they chose to administer the vaccine to me is on Shabbos. It is very difficult to reschedule and there is no guarantee that I will be able to get a vaccine at a later date. May I get the vaccine on Shabbos? If yes, what should I do about carrying my identification card to the hospital as they will not administer the vaccine if I cannot prove identification?
You may receive the vaccine on Shabbos in such a case, and you should arrange with a Gentile to carry your identification card for you to the hospital.
Explanation: Covid 19 is considered a potentially lethal illness and is thus under the category of danger of life for which one can desecrate Shabbos in order to help save. This certainly applies in a country that the illness is rampant and spreading like wildfire and whose medical establishment is overwhelmed with cases to the point that they simply cannot provide oxygen for all those who need it, hence exacerbating the death toll. The vaccine is medically considered to be effective to prevent the illness, and hence it is permitted and even an obligation to take it on Shabbos if it is not available to be taken another time, or there is serious doubt as to whether the opportunity will arise later. In truth, even if the Covid disease were not to be lethal but simply cause one to become bedridden with illness, as occurs in most cases, it would be permitted for one to take the vaccine on Shabbos in such a case, being that it is administered by a Gentile, and it is permitted for one to perform even biblical Melacha through a gentile on Shabbos for one who is bedridden, or to prevent an illness that can cause one to become bedridden. For this reason, one may likewise ask a gentile to carry his identification card. This especially applies in this case that in truth the Melachos involved in giving a vaccine may not be biblical at all.
Sources: See regarding the allowance of taking vaccines on Shabbos if they cannot be taken another day: SSH”K 32:62; Rav SZ”A in Shulchan Shlomo Erchei Refua p. 60-61; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:53; See regarding desecrating Shabbos through a gentile for one who is ill: Admur 328:19; See regarding desecrating Shabbos to prevent an illness: Rav SZ”A in Shulchan Shlomo Erchei Refua p. 61; SSH”K 34:16; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:2; See regarding if a vaccine even involves a Biblical prohibition: Admur 328:32; Tzitz Eliezer 8:15; 9:17; 10:25; 13:45; 14:9; Shevet Halevi 1:61; 8:79; 9:75; Divrei Yisrael 1:103; Nachalas Meir 15; Or Letziyon 2:26-20; Yabia Omer 9:108SSH”K 32:58; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:53