The Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans is asking Catholics to avoid the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine if given the choice, saying the medication is “morally compromised” because of “extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”
The statement was issued on Friday, according to Religion News Service, as the Church also told followers that the choice of taking the vaccine is theirs.
According to the archdiocese, its efforts are in line with policy formed by the Vatican. However, in December, the Vatican issued general guidelines regarding vaccines in which the Holy See said it was “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive shots that used HEK293 cells for research.
In addition, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life declared in 2005 and again in 2017 that in the absence of alternatives, Catholics could receive vaccines made using historical human fetal cell lines.
The HEK293 cells reportedly originated from a fetus that was aborted in the Netherlands in 1973. Ethicists have noted that HEK293 cells used for vaccines are clones and are not the original fetal tissue.
According to The Washington Post, the cells used now to develop vaccines, such as those used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are not from the original fetal tissue.
In addition to the News Orleans archdiocese, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has expressed concern over the use of cells from aborted fetuses. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission sent a letter to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April 2020 expressing concern about the use of fetal cells in the development of certain COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies,” the letter read. “For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines.”
Janssen is the company that made the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.