West Virginia Catholic Bishop Mark Brennan encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated with one of the two currently available COVID-19 vaccines that were not made with cell lines created from aborted babies.
The Wheeling News-Register reports Brennan, who serves the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said he plans to get vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines himself.
“… and I strongly urge all Catholics and other residents of West Virginia to do the same when they have the opportunity,” he wrote in a letter this month to the churches in his diocese. “We must remember that in protecting ourselves through an effective vaccine we are also protecting others. Getting vaccinated, then, is a way of promoting the common good and putting into practice the commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Reiterating a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brennan said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were not made with and do not contain cell lines developed from aborted babies, and therefore are morally permissible.
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The Vatican also issued a statement earlier this month agreeing that Catholics may be vaccinated with the new products despite remote connections to aborted babies. According to research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines used an abortion-derived cell line in some of the confirmatory lab tests. However, the cell line was not used in the design, development or production of the vaccines.
“Fortunately, cell lines that do not come from aborted fetuses are available for pharmaceutical companies to use,” Brennan said. “Some vaccines based on them are in development but are not yet ready for production or distribution. In the meantime, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are morally legitimate to use, given the remoteness of their connection to the aborted babies and the urgent need to protect ourselves and others from a deadly disease.”
The bishop said Catholics ideally would be vaccinated with a product that has no connections to the evil of abortion. He encouraged people to contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ask for an ethically produced vaccine: Commissioner, FDA, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20993; or 1-888-463-6332.
“Because abortion is a gravely wrong act, we should always oppose it and never give the appearance that we approve of it,” Brennan said.
A number of leading pro-life and religious organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have warned people about the unethical production of a third vaccine from AstraZeneca. The company used an abortion-derived cell line in the design and development, production and confirmatory lab tests for the vaccine. The Catholic News Agency reports the cell line was created from the kidneys of a baby girl who was aborted in 1972 in the Netherlands. It is known as HEK293.
According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, some vaccines still in development are being made without any abortion-derived cell lines. It is not clear when they may be available to the public. These include CureVac, which is being developed in Germany, and a Sorrento vaccine being developed in the U.S.
There is disagreement about the currently available vaccines even among Catholic and pro-life leaders. Earlier this month, a group of Catholic bishops from the U.S. and Europe said even vaccines with remote connections to abortion are unethical. Pro-life leader Abby Johnson also recently encouraged pro-lifers to reject any vaccine with connections to aborted babies.
Vaccines can be and are produced with ethical materials, including pluripotent stem cells and tissue from placentas, umbilical cords and amniotic fluid. In 2018, the Trump administration created a $20 million grant to invest in these ethical research alternatives.
It appears that some vaccine producers are listening to pro-lifers’ concerns. In September, the company Sanofi-Pasteur announced plans to produce a new, ethically-developed polio vaccine. The project will replace an older polio vaccine that was developed with cells from an aborted baby, according to the Catholic News Agency. Sanofi-Pasteur is one of the largest vaccine production companies in the world.