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Diocese News March 5, 2021

Statement of Bishop Edward J. Burns on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

It is important to emphasize what the USCCB’s statement does say and what it does not say.

The USCCB released a statement on March 2, 2021 concerning the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in order to draw attention to the immoral use of abortion-derived cell lines in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and to guide the faithful concerning reception of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in particular.

It is important to emphasize what the USCCB’s statement does say and what it does not say. It does say that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine raises additional moral concerns over the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, as those vaccines utilize abortion-derived cells only at the testing stage, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine utilizes abortion-derived cell lines at all stages: design, manufacturing and testing. For this reason, the USCCB calls on the faithful to consider seeking out the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when a choice is available to them.

What it does not say is that receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is morally impermissible or that we must categorically avoid this vaccine. The USCCB identifies Catholic moral teaching on this issue: “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.” The Church fully understands that during this pandemic where there is limited access to vaccines, people are placed in a situation where they do not have any choice concerning what vaccine they receive.

Therefore, I concur with the USCCB’s judgment and reiterate what the USCCB has said:

“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”