March 4, 2021

The recent approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine has prompted renewed discussion among some Catholics with moral and ethical concerns surrounding vaccine use. In response, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., is advising those with questions to use as guidance the March 2nd statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Written by the chairmen of two USCCB committees, Doctrine and Pro-Life Activities, the statement echoes and includes a judgment issued in a December 2020 communication from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The USSCB statement is as follows, “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.

“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.[1] 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.”

Further information is available from these sources:

Moral Considerations Regarding the New COVID-19 Vaccines (USCCB)
Answers to Key Ethical Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines (USCCB)
Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines (Vatican)
Note of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission in Collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life “Vaccine for all. 20 Points for a fairer and healthier world” (Vatican)

[1] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines” (17 Dec 2020), no. 2.

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