Bishop Felipe Estévez was vaccinated against COVID-19 at Ascension St. Vincent’s Southside Hospital in Jacksonville yesterday (Dec. 21). He said he hopes that getting the vaccine will encourage others to do the same as the vaccine becomes more readily available.
“The shot didn’t hurt at all, and so far I haven’t experienced any side effects or allergic reactions,” said Bishop Estévez.
On Friday, Dec. 11, the FDA gave emergency-use approval for the Pfizer vaccine and approval for the Moderna vaccine the following week. Each state has a distribution plan, but national guidelines call for health care workers and those in nursing homes and long-term facilities to be first in line. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has already begun rolling out the vaccines in long-term care facilities across Florida.
Yet, some Catholics have expressed concerns over the morality of getting vaccinated because both available vaccines have some connection to cell lines that originated with tissue taken from abortions.
According to a statement by Bishop Kevin Rhoades and Archbishop Joseph Nauman, chairman of the U.S. bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the gravity of the pandemic and lack of alternative solutions justify the use of the vaccines.
“In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines,” the statement reads.
“Receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community,” read the Dec. 14 statement. “In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
Concerning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the bishops found it to be “more morally compromised” and consequently concluded that this vaccine “should be avoided” if there are alternatives available. “It may turn out, however, that one does not really have a choice of vaccine, at least, not without a lengthy delay in immunization that may have serious consequences for one’s health and the health of others,” the bishop chairmen stated. “in such a case … it would be permissible to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
According to the Vatican’s doctrinal office, although it is morally acceptable to receive the currently available vaccines, “the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses. Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.”
Bishop Estévez said he encourages the faithful of the diocese, especially clergy, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they can unless medically indicated otherwise.
“Despite the unknowns, it is best to do it, not only for our safety but especially to avoid being a conduit to spread the virus to others,” he said.