‘Morally compromised.’ Why one archdiocese urges Catholics to avoid newest COVID vaccine

Tanasia Kenney
·2 min read

The Archdiocese of New Orleans has advised Catholics against receiving the new Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, calling the one-dose shot “morally compromised.”

In a statement Friday, the religious organization said the new vaccine should be avoided due to its link to an “abortion-derived cell line” used in the vaccine’s development and production phases.

But the available vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are “morally acceptable,” the archdiocese wrote, because only some lab testing utilized stem cells from aborted fetuses, making their connection to abortion “extremely remote.”

“We maintain that the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccine remains one of individual conscience in consultation with one’s healthcare provider,” the archdiocese wrote. “In doing so, we advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third COVID-19 vaccine to be authorized for emergency use in the U.S., joining the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the fight against the pandemic. Unlike its predecessors, the Johnson & Johnson shot only requires one dose and has an overall efficacy rate of about 66% in preventing moderate to severe coronavirus infection, McClatchy News reported.

Pfizer and Moderna have a 95% efficacy rate against moderate to severe COVID-19 and require two doses separated by a few weeks.

The use of stem cells from aborted fetuses for medical purposes has long been decried by the Catholic church as “morally illicit.” However, the Vatican seemingly OK’d the use of such vaccines in December, writing: “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.”

Pope Francis has argued that people have a moral obligation to get vaccinated against the virus, although he has yet to address the new Johnson & Johnson shot specifically.

“It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others,” he told Italy’s TG5 news in January. “If the doctors are presenting this to you as a thing that will go well and doesn’t have any special dangers, why not take it?”

Roll-out of the new Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is expected to begin immediately with nearly 4 million doses ready to be shipped across the U.S.