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Despite 'ethical concerns' of origin, Catholic Health will distribute J&J vaccine

Cheryl Gerber / AP

Catholic Health in Buffalo is distributing the J&J vaccine despite concerns that it is derived from aborted cells. Some U.S. faith leaders have expressed moral concerns about Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

Monsignor Robert Zaepfel, the Bishop's health care representative, explains why they have concerns.

“The issue has to do with fetal remains from over 50 years ago, that had been used in some testing and in some production of the vaccines," Zaepfel said. "Certainly, we would have moral objections as Catholics. to any abortion, elective abortions that are chosen by individuals.”

But Zaepfel said at the same time, the pandemic needs to be addressed. 

“Every innocent human life deserves our protection," he said. "At the same time, we have the moral issue of protecting ourselves and society as a whole. And so both the U.S. bishops conference, as well as the Vatican, has issued the guidance that it is actually a work of charity, of taking care of yourself, and of taking care of the wider community that we could, in fact, if we became subject to the to the virus.”

Zaepfel said if there is not a choice, Catholics can morally take the vaccine with a good conscience.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also make use of human fetal cells, but only during testing of the vaccines' efficacy, a fact that makes them acceptable with U.S. bishops.

"Other vaccines while morally questionable, the overriding moral issue is for the common good, and that is for the good of the individual and for the good of society as a whole," Zaepfel said. "Most often people are not presented with a choice which vaccine. There's a shortage of vaccines everywhere. And it's better to get vaccinated early and as soon as possible.”

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
Dave Debo's journalism career runs the gamut from public radio to commercial radio, from digital projects to newspapers. With over 30 years of experience, he's produced national television news programs and has worked as both a daily and weekly print journalist and web editor.
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