The US bishops have expressed “moral concerns” over the new Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, due to its use of cell lines derived from the tissue of aborted foetuses and are discouraging Catholics from using it if alternatives are available.
The vaccine is the third to be authorized for use in the United States by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) after Pfizer and Moderna. Unlike these two vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson antidote requires only one shot and can be kept at normal refrigerator temperatures, making it easy to transport.
Developed, tested and/or produced with fetal-derived cell lines
However, a statement signed by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine and by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, head of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, points out that its approval “again raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines”.
All three vaccines have some form of connection to abortion-derived cell lines, but the US bishops point out that the Johnson & Johnson one was developed, tested and is produced with these cells, raising “additional moral concerns”. Reminding that, in December 2020, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated 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 foetuses in their research and production process”, the statement stresses that “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, according to the US bishops, “if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s”.
Vaccine serves common good
While emphasizing the need “to continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines”, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, the USCCB reaffirms “that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”
In December 2020 US bishops expressed their ethical reservations also on the AstaZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorized for use in the United States, saying that that it was produced with abortion-derived cell lines, therefore encouraging Catholics not to use it if alternatives are available.