AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Vaccines

With the news of the impending approval of COVID vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson we wanted to briefly address the moral issues related to these specific vaccines.

We want to stress that the conclusions reached by the Vatican on the permissibility of using any morally-compromised vaccines do apply to these two new vaccines as well. So, each faithful Catholic who is considering receiving any of these vaccines should consider two points: the effectiveness of the vaccine and the degree of moral compromise.

Effectiveness: It appears that these two new vaccines are not more effective than from Pfizer and Moderna (and may actually be less effective, see also here, and here). At the same time, no vaccine has thus far been found to have more adverse reactions than another. Therefore, from a strictly scientific standpoint, Pfizer and Moderna would be preferred over AstraZeneca or J&J.

Moral Compromise: According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s information these two new vaccines from AstraZeneca and J&J are significantly more morally compromised than those made by Pfizer or Moderna. This is due to the fact that both AstraZeneca’s and J&J’s vaccines use abortion-derived cell lines in all three phases of production (Design/Development, Production, and Confirmatory Testing).

These two points argue for Pfizer or Moderna and against AstraZeneca or J&J asfaithful Catholics should, when able, choose the least compromised vaccine available.

–Please note that this is not medical advice and if there is a medical reason that a specific vaccine, regardless of its moral standing, would pose a risk to your health, please follow your doctor’s advice!–

Frequently Asked Questions

Do COVID-19 vaccinations have “body parts” from aborted babies?

  • This is a question we’ve been receiving frequently. The answer is “No,” none of the vaccines contain any physical material taken directly from an aborted baby. Rather, those vaccines with some association with abortion use cells derived from aborted babies. This means specific types of cells from an aborted baby have been cultured (i.e., “grown”) in a laboratory, most since the 1970’s or 1980’s.
  • From a physical standpoint, this is different than something like, for example, a bone marrow transplant. In that case, it is the actual cells from the donor that are physically injected into the recipient’s blood stream.
  • In the case of COVID-19 vaccines it is, however, true that those cells being grown in culture are morally linked to that aborted baby. It is this fact that is at issue in the discussions currently taking place and is addressed in our statement on this issue.

Click here for more COIVD-19 vaccine information. Please also feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, we always happy to hear from you.

Advocate for Morally Acceptable Vaccine Development

The Holy Father, through the CDF, and our Bishops (along with others) have been clear that while we are able to accept the currently-available COVID-19 vaccines in good conscience, we are also obligated to both avoid scandal and advocate for the development of vaccines that are developed in morally acceptable ways. The advocacy can take many forms, including…

  • Donating to organizations that are developing such vaccines, including the JP2 Medical Research Institute
  • Thanking companies that are developing morally acceptable vaccines including Sanofi Pasture (Human Life Action provides a convenient contact template for Sanofi specifically)
  • Urging companies to are almost there to switch to a fully morally acceptable vaccine development process. You can contact Pfizer here and Moderna here.
  • Charitably admonishing companies that are not almost there (i.e., developing very morally problematic vaccines) to change course. AstraZeneca is the company closest to getting a severely morally problematic vaccine approved and can be contacted here.

FLG COVID-19 Vaccine Statement

Updated 12/21/2020 @ 1120

Just today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published a document entitled “Note on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines.” This provides important clarification on the stance of the Catholic Church. We, without question, accept the CDF’s guidance and if there is anything in our statement below that appears to be in contradiction with the CDF’s document, it is our error.


Prepared by members of the Catholic  Finger Lakes Guild of the Diocese of Rochester, NY December, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccines Associated with Abortion: A Moral Dilemma

The Church’s position that abortion is a grave moral evil has been consistent since the 1st century and is definitive.[1] Since some COVID-19 vaccines use abortion-derived fetal cell lines in one or more aspects of their production, their use requires careful ethical reflection.[2]  On the one hand, such vaccines can do much good in protecting the health of persons and populations, while on the other hand, they are linked to an act that intentionally and unjustly ended the life of a human being.  Herein lies the moral dilemma.

COVID-19 Vaccines: There are Ethical Differences Among Them!

It is important that Catholics understand that of the numerous COVID-19 vaccines currently in development world-wide, there is great variation in their degree of use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines, varying from zero use to extensive use. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) identifies three categories of COVID-19 vaccines, ranging from a Category 1 Vaccine which uses no morally problematic cell lines and thus poses no ethical problem, to a Category 3 Vaccine, which uses the cell lines in one or more aspects of production, including the manufacturing process which is the most ethically problematic. Category 2 vaccines use the cell lines in an incidental part of the development process such as laboratory testing and so are minimally problematic.  Table 1 describes these categories in more detail.

In December 2020, two COVID-19 vaccine candidates – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – received emergency use authorization from the FDA through Operation Warp Speed protocols.   Information provided by the Charlotte Lozier Institute classified both vaccines as Category 2 (minimally problematic). The six other Operation Warp Speed vaccine candidates either meet Category 3 (considerably problematic) criteria, or don’t have enough public information to be categorized.  It should be noted that these and other COVID-19 vaccine candidates may be approved and become available to the public in the future.  For this reason:

   When there is a choice amongst COVID-19 vaccines, Catholics should specifically ask for, and seek out, the least morally problematic vaccine.

Deciding: Help from the Magisterium

The Magisterium of the Catholic Church offers guidance to Catholics who are pondering whether to receive morally problematic vaccines.  In essence, while the Church firmly views a person’s right to exercise his personal freedom as a requirement of ensuring human dignity, it is moderated by a responsibility to use that freedom to promote the common good and moral order.[3] The following Church statements provide valuable considerations in this matter:

* The 2008 document Dignitas Personae (Section 35) allows for the use of morally problematic vaccines for grave reasons such as danger to one’s health, clarifying that “…grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such ‘biological material.’”

* A 2005 letter from the Pontifical Academy of Life  supported the right to abstain from receiving morally problematic vaccines, but did not support an unconditional right to do so when the disease posed a serious threat and the vaccine was sufficiently effective.

* In a 2015 statement, Conscience Exemption for Vaccines based on Fetal Tissue from Abortions, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) noted that a Catholic parent could seek an exemption for their children from morally problematic vaccinations when a conscience exemption was available and when doing so would not pose a serious risk to the population.

* Most recently, the USCCB reminded Catholics that they are ethically permitted to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it is morally problematic, given the urgency of the pandemic, the lack of available vaccines, and the remote connection to the original abortion. They described the decision to vaccinate as an act of charity and love towards one’s neighbor and perhaps the most important feature of receiving such a vaccine.

While these Church statements do not obligate Catholics to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, they clearly favor doing so.  However, out of respect for personal freedom and a person’s conscience formed by well-considered reasons, an individual’s decision to forego a COVID-19 vaccine should be respected.

The Church has conditionally stated that it is permissible, and even advisable                                            to receive morally problematic vaccines when there are no alternatives and when there is substantial risk to one’s own health or to the health of others.

However, the Church deems that the use of such vaccines is not obligatory, out of respect for personal freedom and a person’s conscience formed by well-considered reasons.

Importance of Advocacy

The Church asks more of Catholics in this matter.  It calls Catholics to actively advocate for the development of ethical vaccines, free from any association with abortion or other immoral acts.   Catholics can bring pressure to bear on pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and governments to eliminate the use of unethical cell lines.  Researchers at Catholic universities have an unique opportunity to take the lead in this endeavor, so that one need never choose between their conscience and health.  

Catholics should actively advocate against the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines in vaccine research, manufacturing, and testing, and encourage the use of ethical alternatives.

Other Helpful Sources

1. Charlotte Lozier Institute: Analysis of COVID-19 Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Candidates, 12-18-2020.

2. Charlotte Lozier Institute: Update: COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates and Abortion-Derived Cell Lines, 12-14-2020.

3. National Catholic Bioethics Center: NCBC Resources for COVID-19, 12-18-2020.

4. National Catholic Bioethics Center:   “Making Sense of Bioethics” columns on COVID-19, by Fr. Tad, 12-18-2020.

4. Children of God for Life: Abortion-Derived Vaccine website.

5. Catechism of the Catholic Church: See: Abortion (§2270), Freedom & Responsibility (§1731-38), Moral Conscience (§1776),    Respect for Health (§2288), The Person and Society (§1878), Morality of Human Acts (§1749).

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2271.

[2] Note: Although abortion-derived fetal cell lines are used to manufacture some of today’s vaccines, no new abortions are needed to obtain these cells.  The cells in use today are descendants from the cells obtained from single elective abortions that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. No actual cells are contained in vaccines.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church: Section 1738, Freedom and Responsibility. 

COVID-19 Vaccines

The Guild has been closely following the development, and now distribution, of vaccines for COVID-19. There has been much written on this topic and we are in particular very thankful to the USCCB for their recent guidance on this important topic.

We will be posting our detailed thoughts on all of this shortly. In the meantime, we would like to provide some resources that we hope will be helpful in thinking through this important issue.

If you have questions or would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Physicians, Heal Thyself – The Pulse of Catholic Medicine

By Cynthia Hunt, M.D.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress tremendously for many physicians and health care providers in multiple ways that are unprecedented in volume and intensity. Considering 50% of physicians reported burnout prior to the pandemic, it is now increasingly important to follow the directive found in Luke 4:23, “Physicians, heal thyself.” This verse can be understood as a reminder to physicians to work on their own illnesses and weaknesses to be better able to help others.

Read the whole piece…

Denial of Sacraments Due To COVID

I was very glad to read that Dr. Meaney has recovered from his health scare…and…I was not at all surprised to hear about the drastic visitor restrictions that caused him to be denied the sacraments. This is occurring all over the country, including here in Rochester.

The reasoning for these restrictions is clear and while I am very much in favor of doing what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he sums up the fundamental problem succinctly:

I do not think some thoroughly secular people grasp the magnitude of the offense of denying a gravely ill or even dying person the last rites of the Church. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, including Holy Viaticum, can literally make the difference between an eternal destiny in heaven or one in hell.

Ultimately the secular world simply disagrees…and sadly so do many Catholics with perhaps as few as 30% of self-identified Catholics believing that the Most Blessed Sacrament is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The question is whether the Church in the US and around the world has the political will and moral fortitude to face this challenge.


Physician Assisted Suicide

Please consider supporting our President, Dr. Tom Carroll, as he talks about Physician Assisted Suicide opposite Dr. Timothy Quill on Wednesday, 5/27, from 12-1pm. The Zoom link is

This presentation is part of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Unmasked conference. This is a forum for presentations about projects around the COVID-19 crisis and abstracts that were part of canceled conferences this spring. In addition to Dr. Carroll’s presentation there is a full slate of intriguing presentations on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Please feel free to join any/all that you like!

Full daily schedules here:

Wednesday, May 27

Thursday, May 28

Friday, May 29

Unmasked-General-Program-Final Version

Universal Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders, Social Worth, and Life-Years…

My only criticism of the article is that they did not cite and respond to the recent high profile paper by Emanuel, et al. wherein it is argued that:

  • “Saving more lives and more years of life is a consensus value across expert reports…”

  • “Recommendation 2: Critical Covid-19 interventions — testing, PPE, ICU beds, ventilators, therapeutics, and vaccines — should go first to front-line health care workers and others who care for ill patients and who keep critical infrastructure operating, particularly workers who face a high risk of infection and whose training makes them difficult to replace…Whether health workers who need ventilators will be able to return to work is uncertain, but giving them priority for ventilators recognizes their assumption of the high-risk work of saving others, and it may also discourage absenteeism.”
  • Recommendation 5: People who participate in research to prove the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics should receive some priority for Covid-19 interventions.

Thank you to the Dr. Bledsoe, Ms. Sulmasy, and colleagues, and the American College of Physicians, for publishing this important article!