U.S. Catholic bishops: Johnson & Johnson vaccine raises moral questions

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Some Catholic church leaders say the production of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine is raising moral questions. On Tuesday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement, arguing the company’s vaccine was developed, tested, and produced with abortion-derived cell lines.

Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and chair of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, said in a Wednesday news conference the Church is not forbidding Catholics - or anyone- from taking the newest shot available in the U.S.

“But I think there are Catholics who would like to, would prefer to take big vaccines that make less use of these cellular-based products as kind of a witness to the culture of life,” said Rhoades.

Catholic bishops recommend people, if given the choice, take the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which have a lesser connection to abortion-derived cell lines.

“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production,” wrote the USCCB.

In a statement, Johnson and Johnson told 16 News Now “there is no fetal tissue in the vaccine”. However, the company did not dispute to the Associated Press that an abortion-derived cell line is used in the vaccine’s production.

In December, the Vatican said “...when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

Catholic bishops supported this statement, saying being vaccinated during a global pandemic can help serve the common good.

But are people allowed to choose which vaccine they get?

“It would be reasonable to call a site, and you know, if people have particular questions or concerns or, you know, a basis for why they want one manufacturer over another,” said Dr. Mark Fox, M.D., the St. Joseph County deputy health officer.

With Notre Dame being a mass vaccination site later this month in which Johnson and Johnson will be the shot offered, university spokesman Paul Browne issued a statement Wednesday:

“The University of Notre Dame was asked by state and county health officials to support the inoculation of eligible Indiana residents against COVID-19. Given the gravity of the pandemic, the urgent need for vulnerable populations to be vaccinated in order to save lives, and the current general inability to choose between available vaccines, Notre Dame has determined that it is in the interest of the common good to collaborate with the state and county health departments to facilitate all available forms of the vaccine.”

Full statement from Johnson & Johnson:

We are proud to bring our COVID-19 vaccine to the world and to contribute to ending this pandemic. In developing our vaccine, we have held ourselves to the highest bioethical standards and guidelines. Our single-shot COVID-19 vaccine uses an inactivated non-infective adenovirus vector – similar to a cold virus – that codes for the coronavirus “spike” (S) protein, and there is no fetal tissue in the vaccine. We are able to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses using our engineered cell-line system and look forward to delivering those doses around the world and help meet the critical need.

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