Bishop Joseph Brennan of the Diocese of Fresno is urging Catholics not to get a coronavirus vaccine when they become available, citing concerns about the use of fetal cells in vaccine development.
Researchers working quickly to develop vaccines have used cells derived from an aborted fetus, Brennan said, and possibly other “morally objectionable” materials.
“I try to maintain a joyful spirit, so I don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade,” Brennan said. “But I’m going to rain on a parade today: the vaccine parade.”
In his message, Brennan said the use of fetal cells at any stage of a vaccine’s development means Catholics cannot avail themselves of its scientific results.
“I won’t be able to take a vaccine, brothers and sisters, and I encourage you not to, if it was developed with material from stem cells that were derived from a baby that was aborted, or material that was cast off from artificial insemination of a human embryo,” he said. “That’s morally unacceptable for us.”
Without explanation, Brennan specifically called out the Pfizer vaccine, though The Times noted, “There is no indication that it was developed using either fetal cells or human embryonic stem cells.”
Brennan joins a growing chorus of Catholic organizations concerned about fetal cells and COVID-19 vaccines. In April, more than 20 Catholic leaders and prominent members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops signed a letter to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration urging the federal government to follow “moral principles” in the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute, an antiabortion organization, has flagged five COVID-19 vaccine candidates that were developed with the help of fetal cells. One of them, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, is in late-stage testing. So is another developed by Johnson & Johnson.
Brennan’s comments come as COVID cases are surging across the United States.
More than a million new cases were recorded last week alone, and California is currently sustaining its highest-ever counts for daily cases, surpassing 10,000 new daily cases four times in the last week and recording a single-day high of more than 5,000 new cases on Thursday.
Image credit: Screengrab / Diocese of Fresno / YouTube