Diocese of Pittsburgh urges Catholics to choose Pfizer, Moderna vaccine over J&J if given the choice

PITTSBURGH — The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is urging area Catholics to choose the Pfizer, Moderna vaccine over Johnson and Johnson, if given the choice, over concerns of using vaccines developed with the help of abortion-derived cells.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued a statement Tuesday saying the vaccine “raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines.”

“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.’[1] However, 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. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s,” according to the statement.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh shares the sentiments of the USCCB on this issue, according to officials with the Diocese.

“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,” the USCCB statement says.

Reaction to the statement

At least one infectious disease doctor is calling the recommendation from the diocese “dangerous.”

“It has no place in the 21st century and certainly in a pandemic with 2,000 people dying per day,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja.

He called the decision “reprehensible” and that it has no basis in “scientific knowledge.” Adalja also said the abortion-derived cells used to create the vaccine have been used for decades.

“It’s something that I hope every Catholic lets go in one ear and out the other,” he said. “Vaccines you got as a child, Hepatitis A, certain rabies vaccines, chicken pox, all of that is related to fetal cells and this has become a parcel of vaccine development and biotechnology.”

Adalja said the cells that are used to grow the virus from which the vaccine is made are highly efficient.