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QUESTION

Washington, D.C.

What should the approach be for a vaccination appointment on Shabbat, assuming that is the only appointment available? I just saw someone on Facebook who was able to book one but saw it was on Shabbat and canceled it before any of us could tell her she should go! So upsetting. Is there any guidance being provided on this?

ANSWER

I’ve been struggling over this – how much is preventative medicine like a choleh with the same heteirim?  In this case, where the need is so great, I would say it can be categorized as such, but only after looking at options.  Will cancelling this mean she doesn’t know when she’ll get the next appointment? It could be 6 months from now. I such a case I have no problem putting her in the choleh category. Or does it mean that she will get one in the next week or two, she just doesn’t know exactly when?  And then all the possibilities in between.

Also, is there a possibility to get a room at a hotel in walking distance and stay there for Shabbat? If she were to say that it’s too inconvenient, then that tells you something about the degree of urgency.

Is she high risk or low risk?

My basic approach is that in the right set of circumstances – based on some balance of risk, urgency, etc. – I would put someone in the choleh category, with the attendant kulot. How to weigh those factors, and the judgment that goes into it, is the responsibility of the rabbi who is being asked the question.

I’d be happy to review the implications of the choleh classification if desired.