Bishops, state officials release information on safety, ethics of potential COVID-19 vaccines


COVID-19 vaccines being developed by two major pharmaceutical companies do not contain human fetal tissue and are free of aluminum salts or ethlymercury, according to the State of Missouri’s recently updated COVID-19 website.

“Although FDA-approved adjuvants (aluminum salts) and preservatives (ethlymercury) have a history of safe use in vaccines, they were not used by Pfizer and Moderna in this vaccine technology,” the website stated.

The Jefferson City diocese’s Communication Department sent a link for the website to parishes on Dec. 7 to help respond to concerns about the safety and ethics of vaccines that are in the late stages of development for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The diocese also sent statements from Missouri’s Catholic bishops and from two committee chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), affirming the moral permissibility of receiving either vaccine.

The Missouri bishops’ statement was published in the Nov. 27 print edition of The Catholic Missourian and can be found by CLICKING HERE.

In it, the state’s bishops affirm the value of ethical medical research but call for alternatives to using fetal tissue from aborted babies.

“Fortunately, there are vaccines in line to be released soon that do not raise ethical concerns, even if some do,” the state’s bishops noted.

“Everyone should have access to a safe and effective vaccine, and no one should have to face being inoculated with a vaccine derived in an unethical manner,” they stated.

However, referring to the 2008 “Instruction on Certain Bioethical Questions” (“Dignitatis Personae”) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the bishops concluded that “preserving one’s health and that of others outweighs the remote association with past abortions which were neither desired nor intended by those now using the vaccines.”

The diocese also distributed a Nov. 20 memo from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, to their fellow U.S. bishops.

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production,” the two prelates stated. “They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.

“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote,” they continued. “Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines, then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching.”

Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann cited three Vatican documents that “treat the question of tainted vaccines”: “Dignitatis Personae”; the 2005 study by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses”; and the 2017 “Note on Italian Vaccine Issue,” by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

All three sources “make it clear that, at the level of the recipient, it is morally permissible to accept vaccinations when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health,” the bishops wrote.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s and Bishop Rhoades’s memo can be found online by CLICKING HERE.

Missouri’s question-and-answer page on COVID-19 vaccines can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Julie Asher is a reporter for Catholic News Service.