PORTLAND---In recent weeks, the positive developments in the production of COVID-19 vaccines have stirred excitement but also hesitance in some quarters regarding the safety of the vaccines. Many Christians have expressed a range of emotions and opinions regarding the vaccines, and a variety of different questions have reached Bishop Robert Deeley.
“Our first response must be to give thanks to God for the scientific advancement and talent that helped to create such lifesaving vaccines,” said the bishop. “I have already been asked several times: should I receive the vaccine when it is available to me? My answer is a resounding ‘yes.’”
Some have claimed that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines taken from aborted babies, it is immoral to be vaccinated with them.
“This is, in my opinion, an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching,” said Bishop Deeley.
The two vaccines that will be available in the U.S. are coming from Pfizer and Moderna. According to the moral guidance of the Bishops Conference (USCCB), “neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development, or production. They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as one of the tests that Pfizer and Moderna cited to confirm that their vaccine would work relied upon an abortion-tainted cell line. There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote.”
“Three separate documents have been released by the Holy See that address the question of an abortion-tainted cell line and also make distinctions in terms of the moral responsibility of the various actors involved, from those participating in designing and producing a vaccine to those receiving the vaccine,” said Bishop Deeley.
Most importantly, they all make it clear that, at the level of the recipient, it is morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.
“Catholics care about the common good,” said Bishop Deeley. “The Gospel calls us to care for each other. Even before COVID-19, Maine had one of the lowest rates of immunization in the country. There has been an increase in cases of whooping cough and other communicable diseases.”
That care needs to extend to auto-immune compromised individuals living in Maine.
“These individuals cannot receive vaccines and need the ‘herd-immunity’ from high vaccination rates,” said the bishop. “Many communities in Maine are almost below those rates. Caring for the common good of all provides an encouragement to all to receive the vaccination for both their own health and safety and that of others.”
Receiving the vaccine is, therefore, consistent with the Catholic commitment to promote the common good.
“As we soon enter into a new year, we continue to pray that God will remove this terrible virus from our midst,” said the bishop, “and grant healing, comfort, and peace to all.”