The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have discouraged Catholics from taking the new Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, citing ethical concerns related to its development. The leaders have voiced opposition to the use of fetal cell lines in the production of the vaccine. They have signed off the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine as permissible because the cells are only used at the testing and development stage.
“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production," they said. "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns."
The bishops cited a recent Vatican document that said it was acceptable for Catholics to receive such vaccines if others are not available. "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," read the document produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen," the bishops' urged. "Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s."
The concluded: "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.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is has been praised for its logistical advantages as it can be stored in a refrigerator two to eight degrees celsius. This is in contrast to the Pfizer jab which requires temperatures as low as -44 degrees celsius. In addition, only one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is required, as opposed to two from Pfizer or Moderna.
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said that there would be enough vaccines available for every American citizen by May.
"Three weeks ago, I announced we would have enough vaccine supply for all Americans by the end of July. Now, with our efforts to ramp up production, we will have enough vaccines for every American by the end of May," Biden tweeted.
The president warned that while this was "great news," people should "stay vigilant" because the fight is "not over yet".
"We need vaccinators, people who put the shots in people's arms, millions of Americans' arms," he said. "We cannot let our guard down now or assure that victory is inevitable. We can't assume that."