Respect Life: Vaccines and Respect for Human Life

Vaccines and Respect for Human Life

[Jesus said,] “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

“By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22).

The use of vaccinations and immunizations has saved perhaps millions of lives since they were first developed in the late eighteenth century. But, for many reasons, vaccination use against COVID-19 became a very controversial topic in 2020 and 2021.

There is a plethora of information available online about the COVID-19 vaccines. But every Catholic should consider these three points with regards to vaccination against COVID-19 or any other disease.

Do some vaccines use aborted babies in testing and/or production?

Many pharmaceutical companies have used aborted fetal cell lines or aborted fetal cells in the testing or production of vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines. See an explanation and a chart showing different pharmaceutical companies’ methods for COVID-19 vaccines here at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Faithful Catholics may decide to receive these vaccines (and other problematic vaccines) because this is considered remote cooperation with evil; however, such faithful Catholics should also inform pharmaceutical companies of their concerns about this practice. Letters to the major companies can be found, downloaded, and printed here.

Is it morally acceptable to receive vaccines that have used aborted babies in testing and/or production?

Some of the statements by Catholic bishops and theologians about the moral considerations involved in receiving such vaccines are found here. But it is also recommended that we become better educated about the dignity of human life and why this issue matters to Catholics. A great place to start—although it does not address vaccines directly—is to read Saint Pope John Paul II’s “Evangelium Vitae”, which can be found here.

Is it morally acceptable to refuse vaccines that have used aborted babies in testing and/or production? Is it morally acceptable to force people to receive a vaccine against their informed conscience?

The following excerpt from the “Note on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines” from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith answers this question.

[P]ractical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed. Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center also has multiple statements about this issue, including this one.