COVID-19 Vaccines

USCCB Statement:  “In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines.

“Receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community.  In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”

With regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the bishops found it to be “more morally compromised” and consequently concluded that this vaccine “should be avoided” if there are alternatives available. “It may turn out, however, that one does not really have a choice of vaccine, at least, not without a lengthy delay in immunization that may have serious consequences for one’s health and the health of others,” the bishop chairmen stated. “In such a case … it would be permissible to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

While some pharmaceutical companies have been working on a vaccine for COVID-19 without using morally compromised cell lines at all, others have been using such cell lines in either the design and development phase or the production phase or in both. Still others have been making use of a morally compromised cell line only for a confirmatory test of the vaccine’s efficacy. This leads many people who are concerned for the sanctity of human life to ask if it is ethical to accept any of the vaccines that have some connection to abortion[1].

In 1972, a female child was aborted in the Netherlands, and cells from her kidneys were extracted and developed into the cell line now known as “HEK293.” “HEK” stands for “Human Embryonic Kidney.” Cells from the HEK293 line have been commonly used in biologic research since the late 70s. 

The vaccinations produced by Pfizer and Moderna did not use HEK293 in their design, development, or production, but did use cells from the line in a confirmatory test, said the bishops. 

While neither vaccine is completely free from any connection to morally compromised cell lines, in this case the connection is very remote from the initial evil of the abortion,” said the bishops. 

Conversely, the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca “should be avoided if there are alternatives available,” said the bishops, as this vaccine is “more morally compromised.” 

“The HEK293 cell line was used in the design, development, and production stages of that vaccine, as well as for confirmatory testing,” said Rhoades and Naumann. The two compared the AstraZeneca vaccine to the current rubella vaccine, which also was reliant on “morally compromised cell lines.”[2] 

So what does our Bishop say?  I have it on good authority, from someone deep within the Diocesan Administration Offices (also known as St. Michael’s West) that the Bishop agrees with the statements above and has no position on the question of asking his flock to get the vaccine.  He leaves that decision up to us.

So how do the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work?  They both use a novel and somewhat new technology called mRNA or messenger RNA.  According to the CDC, mRNA molecules are injected into muscle tissue with some of the mRNA passing through the local cell walls.  There it does what its name suggests and it delivers a “message” to produce a protein.  

Remember all those images of the COVID-19 virus that look like a ball with “spikes” emanating from the surface?  Well the ball section contains the COVID replication code and tricks the cell into making many copies of its self.  This continues until the cell is exhausted or pops.  As the copies of the virus are being made, other systems in the cell recognize they do not belong and they are ejected from the cell membrane.  The “spikes” are a protein which is the mechanism the virus uses to “open” the cell wall, pass by its natural defenses, and “set up shop” to make more virus from within.

Back to the vaccine; the mRNA from the vaccine tells the cell to make a section of the COVID-19 spike protein, or the complete spike protein (depending on who’s vaccine you get).  The cell recognizes the proteins do not belong and ejects them; this stimulates the immune system to recognize the spikes and therefore the whole COVID-19 virus.  The immune system follows by generating antibodies to destroy the COVID-19 virus.  The mRNA from the shot has a very short life and poses no danger to the body, it soon dissolves away.  It should be noted that the mRNA never penetrates the nucleus and never comes in contact with the DNA of the cell.

Although scientists have been researching mRNA vaccines in general for the last 10 years or so, this is the 1st actual application of this category of vaccines in human population.

Now that’s a lot to pray and think about!



[2] US bishops approve use of coronavirus vaccines with 'remote connection' to abortion - CNA Staff, Dec 14, 2020