Catholic Church Teaching on Covid-19 Vaccines

A series of teachings from the Church have affirmed the moral validity of Covid-19 vaccinations even though there are some challenges. Here are some of the sources to explore:

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says use of anti-Covid vaccines is “morally acceptable”. A note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was approved by Pope Francis, gives the green light during the pandemic to the use of vaccines produced with cell lines derived from two fetuses aborted in the 1960s.

“In such a case, all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories issued a letter on the ethical considerations surrounding an anti-COVID vaccine. The letters explores the moral dilemma posed because it is not clear that bio-pharmaceutical researchers avoid using material from distantly connected to aborted fetuses.

Is it okay for a Catholic to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The short answer is: Yes, it is.

Reading this, many people might be surprised that the question is even being posed. What could be wrong about receiving a vaccine, when we know that vaccinations save lives? The Catholic Church does certainly support and encourage ethical scientific research into the development of vaccines that will mitigate or even end the harm caused by this terrible disease. The virus is linked with the death to date of more than one million people, and has caused great harm to millions more.

The moral issue arises from the fact that vaccine development and testing often make use of cell lines derived from either the tissue of aborted fetuses or destroyed human embryos. Therefore, reception of a vaccine developed and produced from this unethical research presents us with a dilemma that seriously engages our conscience.

Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute CCBI Resources for Covid-19 – December 4, 2020

The use of fetal tissue and embryonic material made many of us wary of being complicit in the act of abortion or of unethical research. Would it be better to avoid using vaccines made from such body parts, where the child or embryo was destroyed through direct killing, where we would seem to benefit from that killing later, albeit indirectly.

The bishops [of Alberta and the Northwest Territories] follow Catholic teaching in explaining that we should use ethical vaccines, those which have no such components, IF they are available. They carefully explain that if they are not available, then, in light of the seriousness of this pandemic, we should use vaccines that are available, even if they contain some material derived from cell lines or tissues derived from aborted fetuses or destroyed embryos. The Pontifical Academy of Life says that the level of cooperation in this evil is remote, and that Catholics should protect themselves, their children and society by using these vaccines. It reminds us, as do the bishops, that we should use ethical vaccines when they are or do become available – an important moral point to keep in mind.

Bishops Conference of England and Wales Bishops issue updated statement on COVID-19 and vaccination

Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate. …

Each Catholic must educate his or her conscience on this matter and decide what to do, also bearing in mind that a vaccine must be safe, effective, and universally available, especially to the poor of the world.

Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves. In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.

United States Catholic Bishops Moral Considerations regarding the New Covid-19 Vaccines

In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines.

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