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Madison Diocese prohibits COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children at its schools, churches
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Madison Diocese prohibits COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children at its schools, churches

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With children ages 5 to 11 now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin, the Madison Catholic Diocese is letting its 102 parishes know they are not allowed to host COVID-19 vaccine clinics at Diocese schools and churches.

Diocese spokesperson Brent King said the Diocese wants to maintain its “neutrality” on whether to get one of three vaccines approved for children’s or adult use, or both, in the United States. All of the vaccines have been proven safe and effective at preventing illness and death from a virus that’s killed more than 750,000 Americans.

“The Diocese has not and will not wade into the polarizing and political environment surrounding this issue, especially as it could potentially pressure individuals to act against their consciences,” King said in a statement.

At the same time, the diocese has “repeatedly” advised “it is morally permissible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in good conscience,” he said, “but there are also valid reasons, including reasons of conscience, why people might decide not to be vaccinated or have their children vaccinated.”

King said the diocese had also forbidden its churches and schools from being vaccination sites earlier in the year for those 12 and older. Although at least three diocese sites — Edgewood High School, and Our Lady Queen of Peace and Good Shepherd parishes — hosted clinics for staff, parishioners or the public, according to Kim Sveum, a spokesperson for SSM Health, which owns St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison and staffed the clinics.

Queen of Peace had hoped to hold another vaccination clinic for children, according to a Nov. 7 newsletter from the parish school’s principal that was shared with the State Journal.

But “we received word on Friday that the decision had been made by the Diocese to not utilize parish and school buildings and grounds as vaccination sites,” the notice states. “We are deeply disappointed by this decision.”

Officials with Edgewood and the two parishes did not respond to requests for comment.

“If any parish has hosted a clinic, it is news to us,” King said, although he acknowledged that “as for the other almost 200 dioceses in the United States, you’ll find there is a wide variance of guidelines, practices and allowances on this issue as well as countless others.”

Among those Catholic institutions allowing their sites to be used for children’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics are several in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, according to the Milwaukee Health Department, which will staff the clinics.

Catholics in liberal-leaning Madison have long clashed with the sometimes more conservative teachings or approaches to worship promulgated by the Madison Diocese, which covers not only Dane County, but 10 other counties in southwestern Wisconsin.

Dane has consistently been among the most vaccinated of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. As of Monday, nearly 75% of residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine, including nearly 87% of those 18 and older.


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