Abortion concerns prompt archdiocese warning on vaccine News Staff

NEW ORLEANS — The Archdiocese of New Orleans is advising Roman Catholics that the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is “morally compromised” because it is produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.

In a statement issued late last week, the archdiocese says the decision to receive a vaccine is one of individual conscience, but adds that Catholics should choose coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer — if they are available.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a January statement that “abortion-derived” cell lines were used to test the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines but not in their development or production.

The Archdiocese statement is the latest development in religious discussions about the vaccine and the use of abortion-derived cells. It was dated Friday, the day before the Food and Drug Administration cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in the U.S.

On Monday, Bishop Michael Duca of Baton Rouge weighed in, acknowledging “moral concerns” about the newly approved vaccine. But, unlike the Archdiocese, Duca expressly said receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is acceptable if other options are unavailable.

“Given our present situation and the need to protect ourselves and one another from this virus, my guidance to the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is to accept as your first choices the vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna, but if for any reasonable circumstance you are only able to receive the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, you should feel free to do so for your safety and for the common good,” Duca said.

That is similar to guidance the U.S. bishops’ conference issued in January. “Given that the COVID-19 virus can involve serious health risks, it can be morally acceptable to receive a vaccine that uses abortion-derived cell lines if no other available vaccines comparable in safety and efficacy with no connection to abortion,” the January guidance said.

Responding to an emailed query, Johnson & Johnson did not dispute church officials’ statements about the cell lines.

“There is no fetal tissue in our Janssen COVID-19 vaccine,” the company’s brief statement said. It notes a harmless virus called an adenovirus in the vaccine, adding, “We are able to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses using our engineered cell-line system that enables the rapid production of new viral vaccines to combat many of the most dangerous infectious diseases.”

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Associated Press reporter Luis Henao in New York contributed to this story.

Kevin McGill, The Associated Press

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