Catholic Church leaders question use, morality of Johnson & Johnson vaccine


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some in the Catholic Church are questioning the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine and how it was produced.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says they question the vaccine’s moral permissibility, saying it was developed, tested and produced using abortion-derived cell lines.

“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production,” a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reads. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns.”

Baptist Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld explained what cell lines are to WREG.

“These are called cell lines. They’re nothing more than human cells that have been passaged tens of thousands of times since, yes indeed, they were actually recovered from an aborted fetus in the 70s or 80s, and there are several of these cell lines,” Threlkeld said. “There’s no fetal tissue remaining in any of those cell lines now. So, we’re decades and many thousands of generations of the cell removed from that actual event.”

Threlkeld says these cell lines have been used in many lifesaving vaccines.

“Hepatitis A, chickenpox, shingles, rabies,” Threlkeld said.

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis says they stand with the statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying it aligns with earlier messaging from the Vatican.

“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 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

Many leaders have been optimistic about Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine because it’s easier to store, transport and reach more people because it only requires one shot.

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