Pope Says Getting Covid19 Vaccine Is “Morally Acceptable,” Even if It Contains Fetal Tissue


Dec 22, 2020


Image Credit: Andrew Medichini

Catholic leaders in the United States and Canada in May raised objections against several Covid19 vaccines in development, on the grounds the vaccine candidates included tissue from electively-aborted (decades ago) human fetuses. Along with anti-abortion groups, the Catholic leaders urged policymakers to find alternatives to vaccines that included fetal tissue, so as to prevent people from having to choose between vaccinating themselves and “violating his or her conscience.” They said the endorsement of such vaccines demonstrated “profound disrespect for the dignity of the human person.”

Now, the Pope himself has okayed such vaccines, stating it’s “morally acceptable” for people to get immunized against Covid19, even if the research for the vaccines involved using aborted fetal tissue, given the “grave danger” posed by the pandemic.

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According to a Science Magazine report on the use of fetal cells in Covid19 vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate — most likely to be the one accessible to people in India — contains them. In the vaccine, “the human fetal cells are used as miniature ‘factories’ to generate vast quantities of adenoviruses, disabled so that they cannot replicate, that are used as vehicles to ferry genes from the novel coronavirus that causes Covid19. When the adenoviruses are given as a vaccine, recipients’ cells begin to produce proteins from the coronavirus, hopefully triggering a protective immune response.”

Recognizing the need to allay fears about Covid19 vaccines, the Vatican released a statement, subsequently approved by the Pope: “All vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in the production of the vaccines derive.” It makes clear the urgent need for vaccination, especially in poor countries around the world, trumps any ethical objections people might have to the process of vaccine creation, and that there is a way to separate our principles from our urgent health needs in today’s time.

The statement then doubles down on the need for vaccination, challenging rising anti-vaxxer sentiment: “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health but also on the duty to pursue the common good.” The decision to vaccinate may be voluntary, but it needs to “protect the weakest and most exposed,” the statement reads, although it doesn’t go as far as to deliver a social mandate to all who oppose any Covid19 vaccines.


Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.


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