It is wonderful news that scientists have been able to develop vaccines for COVID-19, thereby helping to defend human life from this lethal pandemic in the very near future. Yet at the same time I have been concerned when reading that some vaccines have been developed using cell lines which were originally obtained from aborted unborn children.
When tissue samples were collected from these babies’ bodies (decades ago) it was a continuation of them being treated without the dignity due to them as human beings and it trivialised the fact they had been deliberately killed. The fact scientists continue to grow and use these cells in continues this injustice.
This is a very complex moral issue, which involves cooperating in a wrong that someone else has done.
We must bear in mind that using human tissue/cells is not wrong in itself and can be a great good (just think of voluntary organ donation). The Church’s teaching is therefore balanced: we can use vaccines which have been produced, developed and tested in this way with a clean conscience when there is no realistic alternative as it will provide a great social good.
Although our bishops encourage you to do you own research, they understand that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have only been tested (not developed and produced) using these illicitly obtained cells. In contrast the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has made use of them at every stage, making it the most problematic.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has also issued a statement.
I was recently vaccinated (as a hospital chaplain) and received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I am delighted to have been vaccinated to protect both myself and everyone I come into contact with. However, I do not wish to ignore the ethical issue. I have therefore written to AstraZeneca to express my views and voice my opposition to the use of immorally obtained human cell lines. You can read this letter, I have included it below.
I welcome the arrival of the vaccines and thank God for them. I would personally encourage you to take up the offer of vaccination when you have the opportunity to do so. I also pray that in the future we will move towards more ethical means of vaccine production.