Shots of hope

The word "COVID-19" is reflected in a vaccine drop that dangles from a syringe needle in this illustration photo. (CNS/Dado Ruvic, Reuters)

We are grateful for the scientists developing vaccines for COVID-19 and pray their resulting products are safe and effective. We are also grateful for Catholic bioethicists and other church officials who are monitoring the processes to determine if they are morally produced and distributed in an equitable manner.

A memo sent to the U.S. Catholic bishops during their virtual gathering in mid-November gave concerned Catholics a shot of hope about the first two vaccines developed.

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production,” wrote the chairs of the bishops’ committees on doctrine and pro-life activities. “They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however,” they added, “as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.”

It’s a complex issue and there isn’t universal agreement. But citing Catholic moral teaching and recent Vatican documents, the bishops — as well as the Catholic Health Association — said it is clear, at least in these two cases, that it is morally permissible to accept these vaccinations “when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.” We appreciate this guidance, even as we cheer on other companies — including the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Coralville, Iowa — that are developing vaccines by using cell lines not “tainted” by any relation to abortion. — Thomas J. Dermody

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