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Archbishop Rozanski and the Archdiocese of St. Louis are encouraging Catholics to “examine the moral and ethical concerns surrounding the decision to receive” the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The statement came in a press release Tuesday, March 2, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave authorization for the vaccine to be administered.  

Similar to the AstraZeneca vaccine, a cell line derived from an aborted fetus seems to have been used in the development and production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, making it morally compromising, according to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

According to an article by Nebraska Medicine’s infectious disease expert James Lawler, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a cell line grown in a laboratory and derived from tissue from a 1985 elective abortion in order to develop and produce the vaccine.

“They use this cell line because it is a well-studied industry standard for safe and reliable production of viral vector vaccines,” the article reads.

Neither the development nor the production phases of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines uses fetal cell lines, and none of the vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the U.S. use fetal cells from recent abortions, according to the article.

In regards to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the “vaccine should be avoided if there are alternatives (like Pfizer or Moderna) available.” This applies to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well.

“Catholics who appropriately question the morality of accepting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may receive the inoculation in good conscience if no other alternative is available,” the Archdiocese of St. Louis wrote in its press release. “As some Catholics may face a situation in which they are only offered the choice of the Johnson & Johnson inoculation, this should not prevent Catholics from getting vaccinated.”

“The bishops also have previously stated, ‘Catholics may in good conscience utilize vaccines, even those derived in an unethical manner, in order to protect themselves, as well as to avoid the serious risk to vulnerable persons and to society as a whole resulting from remaining unvaccinated,’ ” the Archdiocese of St. Louis stated in its release.