Bishop Tobin: Avoid J&J vaccine if possible, but not if it’s the only one available


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Bishop Thomas Tobin is asking Catholic Rhode Islanders to avoid receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, if at all possible, because it raises “serious moral questions.”

The local prelate’s comments come after two leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement earlier this week regarding the vaccine, which is made from abortion-derived cell lines.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are preferable “if one has the ability to choose a vaccine.”

“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good,” they said.

Tobin echoed that advice, while saying he recognizes that, because of the public health crisis, choosing between the three vaccines may not always be possible.

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has pointed to serious moral questions related to the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. These concerns arise because the vaccine was developed and produced using abortion-derived cells. Accordingly, the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be avoided if at all possible,” Tobin said.

“Although it is not an ideal situation, if the other vaccines currently being used are not readily available or if an individual can’t choose which vaccine to receive, individuals may receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with a clear conscience and without incurring moral fault,” he continued.

Tobin acknowledged the importance of widespread vaccination, calling it “essential to the mitigation of COVID-19.”

“Vaccination promotes the common good, and vaccination is a very legitimate expression of our firm commitment to respect and protect human life,” he said.

Concerns were previously raised over the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because an abortion-derived cell line was used to test them, though it was not used in their production.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, who is Catholic, was asked about the bishops’ statements on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during Thursday’s coronavirus briefing.

“I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about there, but we’ll definitely follow up, because it saves lives and it keeps people out of the hospital,” he said.

When pressed on the moral concerns expressed by Catholic leaders, McKee said, “People can make up their minds in terms of where they are religiously — but it saves lives and it keeps people out of the hospital. That’s our job, to make sure that happens.”

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