NEW ORLEANS — With federal approval of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine, state health leaders expect as many as 38,000 doses to be in Louisiana this week.
“What it means for people of Louisiana is it’s going to be easier to access vaccine,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter with the state health department last week.
As health leaders praise the new vaccine, the Archdiocese of New Orleans rejects it. The Archdiocese said because the company “uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing,” it’s considered “morally compromised."
It’s a process that’s been used before and while there are no human fetal cells in the vaccine, the Archdiocese is recommending Catholics opt for the Pfizer or Moderna versions if available. Those companies used cell lines during testing, but not in current manufacturing.
The full statement reads:
“There has been much discussion of late over the COVID-19 vaccines becoming available to the public as a means of bringing the pandemic under control. For Catholics in particular there has been much discussion and debate about moral and ethical questions around the development of the vaccines in regards to their use of morally compromised cell lines created from two abortions that occurred, one in the1970s and one in the 1980s.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans, in light of guidance from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The National Catholic Bioethics Center affirm that though there was some lab testing that utilized the abortion-derived cell line, the two vaccines currently available from Pfizer and Moderna do not rely on cell lines from abortions in the manufacturing process and therefore can be morally acceptable for Catholics as the connection to abortion is extremely remote.
It is under the same guidance that the archdiocese must instruct Catholics that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in the development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing.
We maintain that the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccine remains one of individual conscience in consultation with one’s healthcare provider. We also maintain that in no way does the Church’s position diminish the wrongdoing of those who decided to use cell lines from abortions to make vaccines. In doing so, we advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”
“It was completely surprising to me,” said Dr. Sandra Kemmerly with Ochsner Health.
Dr. Kemmerly said she doesn’t quite understand why the Archdiocese would take that position and is worried about the impact on getting people vaccinated.
“Several months in we thought we’ve heard most every sort of concern that has been raised and so this was new and really was a surprise,” said Kemmerly.
“Take whatever shot that is available to you,” said New Orleans health department director Dr. Jennifer Avegno.
Dr. Avegno expects several thousand doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be in New Orleans by midweek. She said she respects the position of the Archdiocese but is concerned about people waiting, considering supply and demand.
“We still don’t have the supply available that would allow the state to say anybody who wants one can get one, but we’re getting really close,” said Dr. Avegno.
While the Archdiocese also makes note of a vaccine being one of personal choice, health leaders say you won’t have a choice at vaccination events.
“If they arrive at an event that is a Johnson & Johnson vaccination event and they don’t want Johnson & Johnson product, that will be the only option at that event. They would have to reschedule,” said Dawn Pevey with Ochsner Health.