Notre Dame Requires Students to Get COVID Vaccine, But They’re Linked to Cells From Aborted Babies

Bioethics   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 9, 2021   |   3:39PM   |   South Bend, Indiana

Students at one of the country’s most well-known Catholic universities expressed dismay this spring at a new mandate requiring all students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, despite connections to abortion.

Two University of Notre Dame graduate students said the university also recently began providing the Pfizer vaccine to the student body even though it is “morally compromised,” The College Fix reports.

Catholic university officials “deliberately failed to acknowledge the morally compromised origin of the Pfizer vaccine that will be distributed to the student body,” students Joseph Klatt and Christopher Romanoski wrote in a letter to The Observer.

“The administration’s official communications have made no mention of this connection and have taken on an enthusiastic tone rather than a somber one reflecting that this vaccine benefited from the murder of an innocent human being,” they continued.

The Pfizer vaccine does not contain any cells from aborted babies, and it was not developed with fetal cell lines; but testing on the vaccine did involve a cell line created from cells taken from an aborted baby.

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On Wednesday in a tweet, the university said students must be “fully vaccinated against COVID-19” if they want to return to campus in the fall.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the university, said in a letter that the requirement is a matter of public safety.

“The safety of the University and local communities is always our highest priority,” Jenkins wrote. “Requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is a new and important addition to our health policies, one that we believe will enhance public health at Notre Dame and in our community, while also contributing to our ability to return to a more vibrant campus environment.”

Starting Thursday, the university began offering the Pfizer vaccine on campus, according to a press release from the school. It also promised to “accommodate documented medical and religious exemptions.”

Many Catholic bishops also have recommended people be vaccinated to protect lives and specifically have recommended the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

But Klatt and Romanoski said the Catholic university should be making students aware of the vaccine controversy.

“As a Catholic university dedicated to the pursuit of truth and open discussion, Notre Dame cannot shy away from this difficult discussion for the sake of convenience,” they wrote.

All currently available COVID-19 vaccines have some 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 vaccines. Many have recommended that people avoid the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but disagree about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

According to research from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, developers of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines used cell lines created from aborted babies in design and development, production and confirmatory lab tests. No cells from aborted babies are in the actual vaccines.

In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, cell lines created 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 – including Catholic leaders – say these two 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.