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Philippine bishops warn against ethically suspect Covid vaccines

Prelates claim to have received reports some were manufactured using cells from aborted embryos

Philippine bishops warn against ethically suspect Covid vaccines

A health worker holds a vial containing Covid-19 vaccine in this file photo. (Photo: Christophe Archambault /AFP)

Published: January 14, 2021 07:00 AM GMT

Updated: January 14, 2021 07:19 AM GMT

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have urged authorities not to procure Covid vaccines manufactured using morally unacceptable means.

The call comes after the bishops said they had received reports that some Covid vaccines were manufactured using cells from aborted embryos.

“As pastors, we have to call attention to one ethical concern. We have learned that some of the Covid-19 vaccines were manufactured using cells obtained from the remains of an aborted female fetus who was killed in 1973,” said the prelates in a pastoral statement.

The ethical concern was first raised by senior Catholic leaders in the United States and Canada about the use of fetal cells to test the efficacy of the vaccine.

“It is critically important that … a vaccine is produced ethically: no [American] should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience,” the US Bishops' Conference and anti-abortion groups said in a statement.

The prelates also reminded churchgoers that although Covid vaccines were considered a medical and scientific breakthrough, using embryonic vaccines must not be tolerated by Catholics.

“The perennial teaching of the Church must be repeated: Deliberately procuring abortion, even if it is for the purpose of obtaining material for vaccines, is morally unacceptable. The end does not justify the means; otherwise, the most inhuman and inhumane acts would be permissible in order to attain supposedly ‘worthwhile’ ends,” the bishops said.

“If there are several available vaccines, we urge the national government to prioritize vaccines that were developed without the use of the morally controversial cell lines derived from the remains of an aborted child.”

Certain exceptions, however, were morally permissible for pastoral reasons, they said.

“When ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available [for example, where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions] it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” the statement said.

The bishops also pushed for health workers who had exposed themselves to the virus to take care of coronavirus patients to receive the vaccine first.

“We urge our government and private organizations who have helped fund the procurement of the Covid-19 vaccines to commit themselves to a single vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes medical frontliners and those who are most at risk from Covid-19,” they said.

“It would be a moral tragedy if young, healthy company employees who are at low risk from the disease are immunized before our doctors, nurses and other frontliners and before our senior citizens who are at higher risk of illness.” 

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