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Catholic Archbishop says Johnson & Johnson vaccine with abortion ties can be taken if others unavailable

Medical assistant administers injection
A medical assistant injects a vaccine in a file photo. |

An archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church has said that the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be taken, despite its ties to abortion, if other vaccines are unavailable.

Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, released a statement last Thursday regarding the ethical concerns over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also called the Janssen vaccine.

Jackels explained that if Catholics are given the option, they should take either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, as the Janssen vaccine has stronger ties to the use of cells from an aborted baby. 

“Johnson and Johnson used cell lines from the fetal tissue of an aborted baby in the production of its vaccine, whereas Pfizer and Moderna used them only for lab testing,” explained the archbishop.

“It’s a subtle distinction. All three companies used those ethically compromised cell lines; it’s just that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, because they made only limited use, are further removed from the evil of abortion than is the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”

Jackels noted, however, that if there is no choice in vaccines, “it is morally acceptable for them to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the serious health risk of the coronavirus.”

“The common good of protecting the public health against a contagious and potentially deadly virus takes precedence over any reservations Catholics might have about being treated with any of the available vaccines,” he continued.

Last month, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans released a statement labeling the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “morally compromised” due to its ties to aborted cells.

“… the two vaccines currently available from Pfizer and Moderna do not rely on cell lines from abortions in the manufacturing process and therefore can be morally acceptable for Catholics as the connection to abortion is extremely remote,” stated the Archdiocese.

“We advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”

Some, including those involved in the pro-life movement, have expressed concerns over the ethics of taking a vaccine for the coronavirus developed from the use of cells from aborted babies.  

For example, the AstraZeneca vaccine was developed in part through growing a modified virus in cells taken from embryonic kidney tissue that derived from an abortion performed decades ago.

Further, the Moderna vaccine was developed by using the HEK-293T cell line, which traced its origins to a baby aborted in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

Last December, in response to these issues, the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement saying that it was “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take these vaccines, even if their development involved using aborted fetal cells.

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