My Two Cents on the COVID-19 Vaccine
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
Last weekend we included an insert in the bulletin from our diocesan bioethics’ expert, Father Tom Knoblauch. This insert was intended to explain some of the complexity involved in determining the moral acceptability of the Coronavirus vaccines. As Fr. Tom stated, choosing to receive a vaccine is a prudential decision that we must make for ourselves and our families. We want to do our best to gather information and prayerfully consider our options before making serious decisions. No one can, nor should they, force us to receive a vaccine.
I want to add my own two cents to what Fr. Tom said. Difficult issues are, by definition, difficult; thus, we need to continue to discern. The two vaccines that have been available in our area, those from the Pfizer and Moderna corporations, do not themselves contain material from abortions, but they were tested using a line of cells derived from an abortion many years ago. This means that these two vaccine options can be acceptable under certain circumstances.
First, we need to establish that there are not better vaccine options available. You are totally justified in waiting for other vaccines to become available that were not tested using questionable cell lines. The John Paul II Medical Research Institute has a vaccine in the pre-clinical trials phase already.
Second, we need to determine whether the disease itself poses a grave enough threat to justify the use of a compromised vaccine. This may be more or less serious depending on your age, health, or other circumstances. An older person with asthma who works in a nursing home will be at much higher risk than a healthy school-aged child.
Thirdly, the risk of side effects should be considered. These vaccines are relatively new, and while they have been vetted by the FDA, you are also justified in waiting a bit longer to see what long-term effects each vaccine may have. I am not entirely convinced that COVID-19 poses a sufficient threat to imply that vaccination is somehow mandatory for the common good. I believe we all need sufficient prayer and discernment before making this decision for ourselves and our children. There are other vaccines becoming available that are less morally acceptable. The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, for example, are themselves derived from cell lines that came from abortions. Such vaccines should be avoided in favor of better options. I pray that the JPII Institute and others will provide ethically produced and tested vaccine options in the very near future.
If you are interested, I have a spreadsheet available at the St. Henry’s Church office that details the various vaccine candidates for COVID-19 and their production and testing methods. I encourage you to consult this and other resources before making decisions for your families. May God grant us an end to this pandemic and the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Counsel to guide us in all our decisions.
Peace in Christ,
Father Matthew Kuhn