It is not sinful to take the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine that is being produced to prevent Covid-19, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have told the faithful.
The bishops’ statement comes following concerns over the use of aborted foetus cells in the development of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is one of three vaccines that has received much attention and press coverage over the past few months, the others being the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccines, which have a different source since they are mRNA-based vaccines.
The UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine for widespread use on Wednesday 2ndDecember. It will be made available from next week after it met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
However, the AstraZeneca/Oxford and Moderna vaccines are yet to receive approval in the UK and will only be available once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
Earlier this year, the bishops of England and Wales told Catholics it is a matter for their own consciences whether they used a Covid-19 vaccine derived from aborted foetuses.
However, in light of the recent breakthroughs in vaccine development, the bishops have now issued a follow up statement, in which they express their belief that a person does not sin by taking the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine due to the distance and number of steps that have been taken between a foetus being involved and the administration of the vaccine.
“The development of a vaccine against Covid-19 presents an important breakthrough in protecting others as well as oneself from the virus; a virus which has not only caused a global pandemic and led to a huge loss of life but has also placed a great burden on healthcare workers and systems,” Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ Department of Social Justice.
Speaking on behalf of the bishops of England and Wales, he pointed out that each person has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. He noted that a vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate and therefore Catholics may in good conscience receive any of the three vaccines for the good of others and themselves.
Bishop Moth acknowledged the current debates concerning the use of the vaccines, including those questioning the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine “since it has been developed from cell-lines originating from the cells of an aborted foetus in 1983”.
“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy of Life have expressed the view that one may in good conscience and for a grave reason receive a vaccine sourced in this way, provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action,” said Bishop Moth.
“In the Covid-19 pandemic, we judge that this grave reason exists and that one does not sin by receiving the vaccine.
“Each Catholic must educate his or her conscience on this matter and decide what to do, also bearing in mind that a vaccine must be safe, effective, and universally available, especially to the poor of the world,” the bishop said.
“Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves. In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.”
Picture: A small bottle labelled with a ‘Vaccine’ sticker is held near a medical syringe in front of a ‘Coronavirus COVID-19’ display in this photo illustration. (CNS photo/Dado Ruvic, Reuters).