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March 3, 2021

 The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—the official group representing the church in the U.S.—urged Catholics Tuesday to avoid taking the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine if other options are available, saying the J&J vaccine "raises questions about the moral permissibility"—even though Johnson & Johnson has stated it did not use fetal tissues in its vaccine.

 The directive says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be avoided since it was "developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines.”

In a statement to Forbes, Johnson & Johnson said “there is no fetal tissue” in its vaccine, adding the company used an “engineered cell-line system that enables the rapid production of new viral vaccines to combat many of the most dangerous infectious diseases,” though it did not offer further specifics on its process.

Pfizer and Moderna, on the other hand, did not use abortion-derived cell lines in production, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas—chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities—said in a statement.

The J&J vaccine was approved for U.S. use on Saturday and has been touted as a major step in vaccinating the population since the vaccine only requires one shot, while the other two approved so far both require two doses.

The statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is the most significant opposition the J&J vaccine has coming from an official body of the Catholic church, and follows a well-publicized statement last week from the New Orleans Archdiocese.

The Vatican released a statement in December after questions were raised over vaccine ethics, in which it asserted "it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses" in cases where "ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available."

"If one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen," Naumann said. "Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s."

President Joe Biden, also known for his strong Catholic faith and being only the second-ever Catholic president, praised the vaccine's approval over the weekend, calling it "exciting news for all Americans."

The Vatican made its statement in December after citing "diverse and sometimes conflicting pronouncements in the mass media by bishops, Catholic associations, and experts" when it came to vaccine ethics, especially given that there has also been concern around Pfizer and Moderna's development practices. One week before the Vatican released its statement, the U.S. Conference of Bishops said Pfizer and Moderna vaccines came from a "remote connection to morally compromised cell lines," while saying a potential vaccine from AstraZeneca was "more morally compromised" when it came to abortion.

Source: Forbes
Image Source: Getty Images