The Grapevine

Vaccination: Why It’s A Moral Dilemma For Some Religions

Part of the anger driving the stubborn anti-vaccination movement in the United States is the inconvenient truth that some of the vaccines against hepatitis A, German measles and chicken pox are still derived from aborted fetal cell lines.

This practice stems from a very practical and valid reason: for immunizations to work, they require the virus be hosted in a living cell. Fetal cells are protected from outside pathogens when hosted in living cells, and only the "cleanest" fetal cells are used to produce vaccines.

These vaccines are also referred to as fetal cell line vaccines and human diploid cell line vaccines.

The first of these aborted fetal cell lines was developed in the 1960s and are still in use today. Some non-Catholic religious organizations critical of this continuing practice say the fetal cells that continue to stoke indignation among parents originate from material procured from only two voluntary abortions that took place in the 1960s.

A story published in the evangelical Christian periodical Christianity Today in April 2019 revealed that for certain Christians, "the decision of whether to vaccinate comes down to the origins of the vaccines themselves. Some pro-life parents cite a moral disgust and a deep lament over the use of 58-year-old aborted fetal cell lines in development for several recommended immunizations, including MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and chickenpox."

Some Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of other faiths feel morally uneasy and queasy about injecting themselves and their children with a substance manufactured using aborted fetal cells. To them, this practice reeks of immorality.

Many individuals with deeply held Christian beliefs continue to oppose abortion and the use of aborted fetal tissue for scientific research or other purposes such as vaccine making.

A number of non-Catholic Christians also oppose vaccines made from animal cell strains. Many other types of cells are used as growth mediums during vaccine production. These vaccine growth mediums include animal cell strains from dogs, chickens, monkeys, hamsters and insects. Cells from bacteria or yeast are also used.

“There is a subset of the Christian opposition to vaccines that also takes issue with certain animal cells used in medical research, citing concerns over Levitical guidelines on animals and blood products," Christianity Today noted.

vaccination The HPV vaccination is effective at preventing genital warts caused by HPV infections. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

And what of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian religion on Earth with 1.3 billion members?

In 2005, the Vatican issued a statement assuring Catholics that by getting vaccinated they are not “cooperating in evil.” This statement was issued by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The document is “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses.” The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith also approved this document.

This document tells Catholics they have a duty to request and use ethical vaccines produced in a morally acceptable way. Only if there are no morally produced brands are Catholics allowed to use fetal cell line vaccines.

For example, Catholics in the United States are urged to use Pediarix, a combination vaccine in infants and toddlers instead of Pentacel. They should use Kinrix, a combination vaccine at 4 years old instead of Quadrace, and the IPOL polio vaccines and not some other polio vaccines.

The Catholic Church acknowledged there are some vaccines with no morally produced brands. In the U.S., these vaccines are MMR, hepatitis A and varicella.

The Pontifical Academy for Life said Catholics can use these vaccines “on a temporary basis” and “insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women.”

Diseases prevented by the MMR, hepatitis A and varicella vaccines cause serious risk to life. These risks threaten babies in the womb and immunosuppressed persons. The church document said using these vaccines is tantamount to a “proportionate cause” for a “very remote cooperation in evil” when no alternatives are available.

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