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Archbishop explains ethical vaccines stance

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Archbishops Wilton Gregory of Washington, Peter A. Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia, and Joseph Vu Van Thien of Ha Noi, Vietnam, are pictured during the sign of peace as Pope Francis celebrates Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring
Archbishops Wilton Gregory of Washington, Peter A Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia, and Joseph Vu Van Thien of Ha Noi, Vietnam, during a Mass Pope Francis celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican last year. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

Research must respect the “dignity of unborn human life”

As biotech companies race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has written a letter to Australian Catholics to explain the Church’s position on the vaccine development.

Where there is a choice, we encourage people to use a vaccine that has not been developed using human foetal cells deriving from abortion,” Archbishop Comensoli wrote. However, “the bishops accept that the use of an ethically compromised vaccine is acceptable if no other option is available, in order to protect lives”.

Archbishop Comensoli met Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt earlier this month to encourage him in the provision of ethically uncontroversial coronavirus vaccines.

“The development of a vaccine is vital in order to save human lives and bring the pandemic to an end,” the archbishop wrote. Nevertheless we have to be mindful of how vaccines are developed and discourage research that fails to respect the dignity of unborn human life. That is why Catholic bishops around the world are advocating for ethical development of vaccines.”

Archbishop Comensoli is chair of the Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement.

His 14 September letter is the first statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on the COVID-19 vaccine issue.

It follows Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP’s public statements last month raising concerns about the use of cell lines from aborted human foetuses in the development of vaccines. 
The Federal Government has announced agreements with two groups working on promising vaccine candidates in the final stages of clinical trials.

They are the Oxford University-AstraZeneca alliance and the University of Queensland-CSL Limited partnership.

Archbishop Comensoli said while the Oxford vaccine is being developed using aborted foetal cell lines, “it is our understanding that the V451 project [the Queensland vaccine project]does not use cell lines taken from an aborted child but uses a human ovarian cell line. 

For this reason, it appears to be an ethically acceptable option.”

He said a statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2017 titled Note on Italian vaccine issue offers a summary of the Church’s ethical reasoning on vaccine use. 

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