The Archdiocese of New Orleans warned Catholics that a newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 was developed with the “extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”
In a statement Friday, the Louisiana archdiocese said the vaccine is “morally compromised” because of its connection to aborted babies. It encouraged Catholics to seek alternatives when possible.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the weekend, the Religion News Service reports.
The archdiocese said the new vaccine makes “extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines” and thus is “morally compromised.” According to research from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, developers used cell lines created from aborted babies in the design and development, production and confirmatory lab tests for the new vaccine. No cells from aborted babies are in the actual vaccine.
Many Catholics also have expressed concerns about the vaccine from AstraZeneca because it also used a cell line created from an aborted baby’s kidney in development, production and testing.
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While the archdiocese emphasized that the vaccine is an individual choice, it recommended that Catholics seek out vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer, which have only an “extremely remote” connection to abortion.
“We maintain that the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccine remains one of individual conscience in consultation with one’s healthcare provider,” the statement said. “We also maintain that in no way does the Church’s position diminish the wrongdoing of those who decided to use cell lines from abortions to make vaccines. In doing so, we advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”
It appears that all currently available COVID-19 vaccines have a connection to aborted babies, some more than others. The Charlotte Lozier Institute identified several that are being developed ethically without cell lines derived from aborted babies, but they are not available yet.
Pro-lifers and religious leaders have conflicting opinions about the new coronavirus vaccines. Many have recommended that people avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine, but disagree about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. In the case of those vaccines, cells derived from an aborted baby were used in “the animal-phase testing,” but they were not used in the development or production of the vaccines. Because the connection to abortion is small, many believe the vaccines are acceptable, especially when no alternative is available. However, others argue that any connection to abortion, even a remote one, makes a vaccine unethical.
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.
Last year, the Charlotte Lozier Institute identified 17 research groups that were conducting ethical coronavirus vaccine experiments while five that were not. The five using cells from aborted babies in their research include researchers with the University of Oxford (AstraZeneca), Johnson & Johnson and the University of Pittsburgh.
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.