Religious leaders reassure faithful over Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Religious leaders reassure faithful over Johnson & Johnson vaccine
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Some religious leaders are speaking out in favor of Catholics receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops discouraged its use when possible earlier this week.

"We should oppose authorizing or funding research rooted in the taking of innocent human life," Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told NPR.

That does not mean, though, "that people must shun medical treatments that can save lives because they were discovered through means of which we would not necessarily approve," he added.


The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has sparked debate among some religious communities because it was developed from stem cells obtained during two abortions decades ago. For these reasons, the bishops encouraged Catholics to receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines instead when possible.

However, due to limited vaccine supplies that are distributed throughout the country, choosing which brand of vaccine you receive can be difficult.

The Vatican released ethical guidelines regarding the vaccines, stating, "it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process" when "ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available," "where their distribution is more difficult," or "when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated."

Pope FrancisPope Francis Pope calls on young people to protect environment The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Gosar censured as GOP drama heightens Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Native solar startups see business as activism MORE and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were vaccinated on Jan. 14, according to a press release from the Vatican.

The Rev. Kirtley Yearwood, the chief mission officer of Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md., said the Catholic hospital plans to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to its patients, despite its controversial development method. 

"It is a safe vaccine," Yearwood said, according to NPR, noting that the hospital received 500 doses of the newly authorized vaccine this week. "It has a wonderful record as far as being able to prevent serious illness and hospitalization."

He added that the extent of the vaccine derived from the aborted fetuses is very small.

"Those are very remote cell lines. It's not a primary concern when you have the greater issue of saving lives."

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines also utilize aborted fetal cells, however, the method is used only in the efficacy testing phase, according to NPR.

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