As COVID-19 vaccines become available to the public, some Catholics are concerned that abortion by-products may have been used in their production. Is this true, and can we receive any of these vaccines in good conscience? Jimmy Akin gives the answers.
Caller: I was wondering what the Catholic Church’s teaching with the COVID-19 vaccine is. I guess most of them have been derived from the HEK293 immortal cells that were derived from aborted babies in the ’70s and ’80s. What is the Church’s opinion on accepting this vaccine under those circumstances?
Jimmy Akin: So the Church hasn’t issued a magisterial statement on this, but it has in the past—and Catholic moral theologians have, you know, assessed this issue, have assessed the principles that go into evaluating particular vaccines. And actually the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a very good statement on their website. You can look it up, their website is usccb.org. I’ve read the statement, and I was impressed. It’s very well-done. I don’t know who they had prepare it, but they clearly had some very good orthodox experts prepare it.
One of the things they point out is that it is not the case that all of the different vaccines are being derived from fetal cell lines that go back to abortions. Some of them have different types of involvement with that; the main one is the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet out. The other two vaccines that are being released right now [Moderna and Pfizer] do not have that kind of involvement. And so they acknowledge that the use of the other two here in the United States is not going to typically be morally problematic.
There’s more of a concern when it comes to the AstraZeneca one. Even in that case, they acknowledge that there can be legitimate reasons for using it in good conscience, but Catholics have a duty to make their opposition to the way it was produced known, and that’s really the fundamental issue.
The crime that occurred was the abortion several decades ago. That was the real crime. We are not participating in a crime today by interaction with material that came from that crime, and I could illustrate that any number of ways.
But the concern is that if we don’t raise a moral objection to the use of such lines, it can promote such crimes to be committed in the future; and so that’s why Catholics, if they’re in a situation where they need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, they should raise a concern about how it was produced.
Also, the bishops indicated that people are not forced to use these vaccines, but if they don’t, they also need to take reasonable steps to protect themselves and their family members and the rest of society from COVID transmission. So I would encourage you to read the statement at usccb.org.