How CBCP views vaccines derived from cell lines of aborted fetus
MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday offered the use of churches and related facilities to host mass inoculations for COVID-19 and said the Church would not reject vaccines that had been produced using aborted fetus cell lines.
Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, the CBCP president, said the Church was willing to help “in this massive, very complicated and challenging [vaccination] program” against the coronavirus, which had infected more than half a million people and killed more than 10,000 in the Philippines since last year.
Catholics, he said, would make “no moral compromise” if they received a vaccine that is derived from aborted fetus cell lines.
CBCP Vice President Pablo Virgilio David, the bishop of Caloocan City, explained that “the babies were not aborted for use of these vaccines.”
“They were dead already,” he said.
A priest’s question
David said Dominican priest Nicanor Austriaco, who also studied microbiology, spoke to the bishops about the vaccines and country’s vaccination program.
“The question from Father Austriaco was very interesting: May a virtuous Roman tourist use the roads that were constructed by slaves years ago?” he said.
“May a virtuous student of medicine use a cadaver of a murdered person without being compromised morally? That’s how it goes in moral theology discussion … This was also clarified by the Vatican,” David said.
Valles said vaccines produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses were permitted according to the Vatican’s Dec. 21, 2020, “Note on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Morality of Using COVID-19 Vaccines.”
The Vatican said vaccines that used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process were “morally acceptable.”
“The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave danger,” such as the spread of the coronavirus, the Vatican said.
Since the pandemic poses such grave danger, these vaccines “can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that (it) does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive,” the note said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use application of vaccine makers Pfizer and AstraZeneca. It is also studying the applications of Sinovac, Gamaleya and Bharat.
Janssen Pharmaceutica, Clover Biopharmaceuticals and Sinovac had been allowed to conduct phase three clinical trials in the country.Of the seven vaccines being considered for use in the Philippines by the government, only AstraZeneca and Janssen use fetal cell lines.
AstraZeneca uses HEK-293, a kidney cell line that came from a fetus aborted in 1972, while Janssen uses PER.C6, its proprietary cell line developed from retinal cells of a fetus aborted in 1985.
Fetal cell lines
Scientists point out that fetal cell lines are not the same as fetal tissue.
Fetal cell lines are cells grown in a laboratory and a descended from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s, according to infectious disease expert James Lawler in a primer published by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Those cells have multiplied into many new cells over the past four or five decades, creating fetal cell lines, Lawler said.
“Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue,” he said.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science notes that since at least the 1960s, pharmaceutical companies have utilized fetal cells to create numerous vaccines, including ones used to prevent rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A and shingles.
Fetal cells have also been used to develop drugs to combat hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis, and cystic fibrosis.
Valles said he was willing to be vaccinated publicly if that would help convince people to get inoculated.
“If the holy father and the pope emeritus had themselves vaccinated, and in my estimation it helps that people will be vaccinated, why not? People understandably have this fear, and if or being vaccinated in public is a big help, why not? he said.
David also agreed to get the vaccine. “Anything that can allay the fear of the public,” he said.
Valles said he would wait for a “good vaccine” before getting his shots. “But if the situation tells me it is now and that I could not wait for a vaccine, I would take any vaccine offered to one,” he said. — WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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