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Editorial: Get vaccinated

By 
  • March 18, 2021

There’s been a lot of moral/ethical debate about whether Catholics should avoid being injected with COVID-19 vaccines that were produced using cell lines derived from an abortion.

Here’s the bottom line: Get vaccinated.

Pope Francis says it’s OK, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says it’s OK, Canada’s bishops say it OK. They’ve all been saying so for months, but it appears each time a new vaccine arrives, there’s a moral question that pops up anew for Catholics to ponder.

The Vatican has stated clearly that it is “morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.” Further, “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.” Further still, “the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal co-operation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

In the absence of pharmaceutical companies being able to offer “ethically acceptable” vaccines, these are acceptable.

A little science: All the vaccines currently approved for use in Canada have some connection to an aborted fetus, however remote. Using cells descended from two abortions in the 1970s and ‘80s, fetal cell lines are grown in laboratories to produce viruses that are used in the development of many vaccines.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology which entailed using these cell lines in testing, not production. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are offering vaccines in which the cell lines were part of the production process. All the vaccines have been deemed effective in dealing with COVID-19.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated the Vatican position in a March 9 statement issued on the heels of the Health Canada approvals of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines. Given a choice — and it’s not likely many will have that — the bishops said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be preferred because of their more remote connection to abortion-derived cell lines. Importantly, they did not suggest any vaccine be rejected — quite the opposite.

Quebec politicians were the first to jump on the bishops, led by health minister Christian Dubé, for apparently suggesting one vaccine is more effective than another. They did not. The chorus of outrage was loud enough that Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine issued a statement to confirm that “in the present context of a health emergency, any authorized vaccine can be used in good conscience by believers.” The CCCB said the same thing in a “clarification” statement the next day.

The world has seen enough misinformation and misunderstanding throughout this pandemic. There should be no ambiguity about the necessity for as many Canadians as possible to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine — whichever one is offered.

Our politicians, health officials and religious leaders all agree on that, so lets get on with it.

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