Many state laws require that toddlers be vaccinated prior to attending elementary school.

Years ago, the Sabin Polio oral vaccine was used. I'm uncertain if oral vaccines are used, now. Let's say that an oral vaccine for some illness has non-kosher ingredients. There is no other form of the same vaccine (i.e. no dermal form.) Let's also assume that not taking the vaccine is not life-threatening, but, state or local law requires a child to take this vaccine otherwise he cannot attend yeshiva, or any school.

Would this circumstance allow a child to take this vaccine?

  • 3
    The title says "if the law requires it," but the body of the question discusses a case where the "law requires... otherwise he cannot attend... any school." These are two different scenarios.
    – Ypnypn
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:30
  • 3
    This is a rather farfetched case in practice, though perhaps worth dealing with in theory. Improbable elements: 1) oral vaccine is standard 2) no non-oral alternative 3) actually not kosher 4) mandatory despite not being life-saving 5) mandatory for all schools with no chance for religious exemption. Some of these may yet be possible individually in some jurisdictions nowadays, but the confluence of all of them strikes me as very unlikely.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:38
  • @Ypnypn I'll try to edit the question title. I had a problem before with character limit.
    – DanF
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:55
  • You should point to the jurisdiction and the particular vaccine being used. If it is a hypothetical, then it would be difficult to answer. Jan 8, 2016 at 18:59
  • What about simply "Lo k'derech achilah?"
    – LN6595
    Jan 11, 2016 at 1:25

1 Answer 1


Even when the circumstances are not life-threatening (neither for the choleh nor for others), but the medication/immunization would prevent illness (choli she'eyn bo sakana), non-kosher medication may be taken if there are no kosher alternatives, provided that it is shelo k'derech achila (not in the manner of eating; e.g. swallowing pills).

From the Star-K:

If a person is healthy or has a slight discomfort and his physician advises that there is a high risk of him becoming a choleh sheyaish bo sakana or even a choleh she’ain bo sakana, this person may take non-kosher supplements shelo k’derech achila, in an uncommon manner. For example, if a doctor advises HRT9 to a middle-aged woman to avoid osteoporosis, a common condition in older women, she may swallow a non-kosher capsule or tablet if an equally effective kosher substitute is unavailable. Similarly, if a doctor advises swallowing a specially formulated non-kosher vitamin for someone who has a high risk of developing macular degeneration (a disease in the central part of the retina that leads to blindness), one is permitted to swallow the product. However, if a healthy individual wishes to take non-kosher supplements to prevent an illness which is unlikely to occur, a Rav should be consulted, since the halacha is similar to one who has a maychush.

If you are asking where there is an oppressive government that demands eating e.g. pork as a vaccine to a minor discomfort (maychush), if their intention is not specifically to challenge Jewish law (such that we would invoke the rules of shmad), we would presumably allow the consumption of non-kosher to avoid children being prevented from learning Torah. This can be inferred from the fact that historically many Rabbis have risked their lives to teach and learn Torah, combined with the fact that one is not allowed to give up one's life to avoid eating non-Kosher (assuming the intent was not religious coercion; i.e. Torah>life>kosher).

Edit: On second thought, that only proves one could risk eating non-kosher in order to learn/teach Torah...

  • 1
    This person isn't a choleh though; the vaccine is to prevent him from maybe becoming sick later.
    – Daniel
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:14
  • @Daniel judaism.stackexchange.com/a/48638/759
    – Double AA
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:15
  • @DoubleAA How is that relevant?
    – Daniel
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:16
  • @Daniel It seems to indicate that the potential for choli is very relevant as well.
    – Double AA
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:18
  • 2
    @DoubleAA To me that looks like it's discussing an acute danger. That doesn't really seem to be the case here.
    – Daniel
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:20

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