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Diocese advises faithful regarding COVID-19 vaccines

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This story has been updated.

As COVID-19 vaccines become more available, Catholics are wondering about the moral implications of receiving a vaccine. The Arlington diocese has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help guide decision-making. 

The FAQ document explains the development process for existing and soon-to-be-approved vaccines and the differences between them. Though the process for creating these vaccines has raised questions, the church has said it is morally permissible for Catholics to receive any of the existing COVID-19 vaccines

Currently available vaccines were developed in some part using an abortion-derived cell line. “The cell line (HEK 293) used by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines originated from kidney cells taken from the body of a child aborted in the Netherlands in 1972. The HEK 293 cells are able to be reproduced repeatedly and indefinitely,” the diocesan document explains. “Their continued use by researchers is an ongoing evil. However, the development of the various COVID-19 vaccines does not require more abortions.”

Despite the origin of such cell lines, the Vatican has said in 2005, 2008, 2017, and in 2020 that Catholics can still receive the vaccines that utilize abortion-derived cell lines. “Knowing the origin of the cell lines does not mean that one intended or wanted the abortion to occur that enabled the cell lines,” said the document. “By getting inoculated, a recipient does not necessarily approve of or intend the original abortion, materially contribute to it, or expect it to lead to more abortions. Therefore, a Catholic may in good conscience receive one of the currently available vaccines (i.e., Pfizer or Moderna) in order to prevent disease and save lives.”  

U.S. bishops say benefits of Pfizer, Moderna vaccines outweigh concerns

However, some vaccines are more problematic than others. “The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are less associated with material derived from abortions than the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, and thus would be morally preferable to receive,” said the document. “If a vaccine became available that has no connection to abortion-derived cells, then that vaccine would be morally preferable.”

The document provides information regarding how Catholics can advocate for more ethical research and pharmaceutical development in the future. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021