I am proud to share the following guest post from my sister, Dr. Melinda (Mindy) Vasser.
As an internal-medicine physician, the well-being of my patients is of utmost concern to me. The covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to so many throughout our country and our world and has been a formidable opponent to the medical community. Like many other infectious diseases throughout history, the hope was that one day a vaccine would be found to help fight this disease. Today, there are currently several effective vaccines available which have shown, and continue to show, efficacy in preventing hospitalization, severe disease, and death from Covid-19. For various reasons, however, many have remained unvaccinated. One reason I will address today is the connection of fetal cells to vaccines. As a prolife doctor who believes the unborn are people deserving of rights, I understand why any connection between vaccines and abortions would give people pause.
It is correct that fetal cells from two aborted babies in the 1970s/1980s have some connection to the covid-19 vaccines. Johnson & Johnson used fetal cell lines in the design, confirmation, and production of the vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna used cell lines in confirmation, but not in the design or production. There are currently no alternatives offered in the US that did not use fetal cells in some step. Importantly, none of these vaccines contain fetal cells, nor do they rely on ongoing abortions to continue to make the vaccines.
I can understand why this would give some people concern that they may be supporting abortion in some way by accepting a vaccine. However, based on the above, I do not believe vaccinating is the same as participating in or approving of abortion. Furthermore, all human life is valuable. This includes the unborn, but it also includes other people, including the elderly, who are very vulnerable to covid-19, and the countless other individuals throughout the world at risk of serious illness and death from this virus. While the death of the two aborted babies in the 1970s and 1980s was unjust and horribly sad, the death of millions throughout the world due to covid-19 is also horribly sad. Is it just to continue to not vaccinate considering the ongoing harm and death?
Some may see this as an “end justifying the means” argument. However, I do not believe this is the case as babies were not aborted decades ago for the purpose of making vaccines. The abortions happened for other reasons, and the tissue was subsequently used in vaccine research and development. Babies were not killed for the purpose of making covid-19 vaccines, and continued abortions are not necessary for ongoing vaccination research, development, or production.
Ultimately, whether or not to vaccinate is an ethical question important to consider, and I appreciate people’s efforts to be ethical in their healthcare. The Catholic church, which is historically strongly prolife and ethically conservative, finds it morally acceptable to receive covid-19 vaccinations (link below). The Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA), a strong advocate for Christian-based ethics in healthcare, also has some helpful resources (link below). I appreciate their statement, “We recognize that each individual must weigh ethical considerations before making a vaccine decision. When we examine the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in light of ethical principles of (a) loving our neighbor by protecting them through our own vaccination, (b) the distance in time from an abortion connection and (c) the fact that the vaccine does not continue to use cell lines derived from an abortion, we find these factors considerable in mitigating the ethical concerns and opening the door to receiving the vaccine in good conscience.”
For people who want to most distance themselves from any connection to an abortion, and who have the ability to choose, Pfizer or Moderna may be preferred for that individual. However, I believe all forms of the covid-19 vaccine offered in the US are ethically and morally acceptable, and I highly encourage vaccination regardless of what formulation is available.
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Imbody, Jonathan. Navigating Vaccine Ethics. CMDA. 7 Jan 2021. https://cmda.org/navigating-vaccine-ethics/
CMDA Update on Covid-19 Vaccines as of March 4, 2021. CMDA. 4 March 2021. https://cmda.org/coronavirus/
Vaccine Ingredients – Fetal Cells. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 8 March 2021. https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients/fetal-tissues
Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 21 Dec 2020. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20201221_nota-vaccini-anticovid_en.html