Covid Vaccines

Outline the ethics of the different COVID-19 vaccines

Pfizer: Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus/COVID vaccine known as “BNT162b2” was developed using genetic sequencing on computers without using fetal cells. The HEK-293 abortion-related cell line was used in research related to this vaccine, but not the testing of the vaccine. This cell line originated from kidney cells from a fetus that was aborted in 1973. No cell line, fetal or otherwise, is required for the ongoing production of this vaccine. This vaccine is currently in use and requires two doses.

Moderna: Moderna’s “mRNA-1273” vaccine does not require aborted fetal cell lines for production, but aborted fetal cell lines were used in both the development and testing of this vaccine. This vaccine is currently in use and is easier to distribute than Pfizer due to cooling requirements. It also requires two doses.

Johnson & Johnson: The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, “JNJ-78436735” does use the abortion-related PER.c6 cell line for ongoing production. This cell line was also used in the development and testing of the vaccine. PER.c6 is a proprietary cell line owned by Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, developed from retinal cells from an 18-week-old fetus aborted in 1985. This vaccine is currently in use. This is a single-dose vaccine, unlike other COVID vaccines which require 2 doses.

AstraZeneca: The AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine “AZD1222” does use the HEK-293 cell line for production. This cell like was also used in both development and testing of the vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved in the United States.

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Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines (Extract) – 21 December 2020

The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote. The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent, in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. It must therefore be considered that, 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. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.

In fact, the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses.4 Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.

At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid…becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. (End of Extract)

There is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems. As regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk…and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole. The lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use. (Pontifical Academy for Life on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith)

[4] “When the illicit action is endorsed by the laws which regulate healthcare and scientific research, it is necessary to distance oneself from the evil aspects of that system in order not to give the impression of a certain toleration or tacit acceptance of actions which are gravely unjust. Any appearance of acceptance would in fact contribute to the growing indifference to, if not the approval of, such actions in certain medical and political circles”.