Like many others, I was quite shocked to read the statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference on vaccines for Covid 19. Whilst I'm sure that the statement is theologically correct, there are many possible courses of action which can be theologically correct.
The statement leaves us Catholics on the ground feeling that, not only are we being told that it is permissible to take a vaccine which is not ethically sound, we are in fact being told we would be, in effect, morally negligent and irresponsible if we decide not to take an ethically unsound vaccine.
It feels like we are being 'instructed' to do so by our Bishops. Like many others I have no desire to take a vaccine if it is tainted by the use of fetal cells from aborted babies, especially when ethical alternatives exist.
We are then asked by the Bishops, as Catholics, to continue to advocate for ethically sound vaccines going forward. But I feel the Bishops' statement has itself taken the power of advocacy out of our individual or collective hands
Why would the Pharma industry, or our politicians, be moved to pursue the development of ethically sound vaccines when our own Bishops have already 'instructed' us, their faithful, to avail of the ethically unsound vaccines already in the marketplace or about to be launched ?
Why should they bother? Where will the demand be for such an offering if unethical vaccines are already being accepted? Why go to the expense of billions of Euros of expenditure and commit the resources and the time to develop it and bring it through all the trials and stages and have it accepted by the European EMA if the faithful have been 'instructed' by their Bishops to avail of the vaccines already available.
Many people of faith will be asking their politicians to ensure that the pharmaceuticals provide an ethical vaccine. Our Bishops need to stand with us in that advocacy.
I respectfully ask the Bishops conference, or individual Bishops, to change course here and themselves call on our politicians and on the pharmaceutical industries to provide vaccines which are safe, efficient AND ethically sound.
This approach has already been adopted by Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler in East Texas.
According to Dr David Prentice, an internationally recognised expert on stem cell research, cell biology and bioethics, one possibility for an ethical vaccine is being produced by CureVac which he says is another mRNA vaccine very similar in production to the ones being offered by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. "Like those two, the development and production is cell-free, but also no evidence in their publications that any abortion-derived cells were used even in product testing. They are currently in Phase 2/3 trials," he told Life Institute.
The Lozier Institute has provided a detailed chart compiling accurate information about the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines, which they say will help people make "well-informed decisions regarding vaccine choices" when they have ethical concerns about cell lines being used from aborted babies in any part of said vaccine production.
It may be the case that the Government will need to fall short of the 70% to 80% of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, before this matter gets their attention. Only then, when they fall short of reaching that target by perhaps 25% to 30% will the pressure come on the government and the pharmaceutical industry to provide safe, effective and ethically sound vaccines.
But if we do not ask, we shall not receive.
Joe Walsh writes from Cork