The nation’s Catholic bishops have issued new instructions for American Catholics urging them to avoid the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine if possible because it was made using cells from babies killed in abortions.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the weekend and the Biden administration just announced a partnership that will greatly increase the number of its vaccines for distribution nationwide.
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.
Today, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. They said it presents moral problems.
“The approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the United States again raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines,” the bishops said.
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Their statement added:
“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.’ However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”
Their comments follow remarks from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which 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.
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.
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.