- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2021

A group of Catholic scholars said Friday the faithful should feel comfortable taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because the cell lines used to manufacture the shots are attenuated from the abortions that produced needed tissue and do not require more fetuses.

“The attenuated and remote connection to abortions performed decades ago and the absence of any incentive for future abortions offer little if any moral reasons against accepting this welcome advance of science,” wrote eight scholars on the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC).

The scholars weighed in after the Archdiocese of New Orleans kicked off a debate this week by dubbing the J&J vaccine “morally compromised,” even as federal and state officials hailed the single-dose vaccine as a game-changer in fighting the pandemic.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops followed suit by saying “if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

The Vatican previously highlighted the importance of vaccination amid the deadly pandemic and said people should not feel complicit in evil if they take the J&J vaccine.



The cell lines involved in medical manufacturing, including the production of J&J‘s vaccine, are tied back to abortions performed in the 1970s and 1980s and known as HEK293 and PER.C6.

“The exact circumstances of the abortion are not known, but the scientists producing the cell line were not directly involved and, crucially, the abortion was not performed for the sake of providing biological materials to researchers,” the EPPC scholars wrote.

There is also no need for future abortions to keep the cell lines going.

The adenovirus vector for the J&J vaccine is grown rapidly, and in large amounts, within the cell lines but then filtered out, so there is no fetal cell-line material in the shots. Also, the cells are lab-grown clones from the original line at this point, so there is no remnant from the abortion decades ago.

“The immortal cell lines are artifacts—biological products that have been modified and reproduced many times over, and they do not retain the natural function of the tissue from which they were derived,” the scholars wrote. “They are not ‘body parts’ in any meaningful or morally relevant sense.”

Moderna and Pfizer used fetal cell lines in the early testing of their messenger-RNA vaccines, but J&J‘s used them in production, so they were singled out by some Catholic organizations.

The EPPC, however, highlighted the importance of the one-shot vaccine and the distant link to abortion.

“While there is a technical causal linkage between each of the current vaccines and prior abortions of human persons, we are all agreed, that connection does not mean that vaccine use contributes to the evil of abortion or shows disrespect for the remains of unborn human beings,” they wrote. “Accordingly, Catholics, and indeed, all persons of goodwill who embrace a culture of life for the whole human family, born and unborn, can use these vaccines without fear of moral culpability.”

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