Alternative path was feasible
Australia could have focused on ethically untroubling alternatives in its quest for a COVID vaccine rather than opting for an ethically-problematic product following the abandonment of the University of Queensland’s widely-heralded vaccine research project this week, Archbishop Anthony Fisher said.
Scientists behind the UQ project were said to be devastated by the decision to abandon the trial after it was discovered that the vaccine generated antibodies which triggered HIV tests, leading to false-positive results.
The project was abandoned even though the trials demonstrated that the UQ-generated vaccine led to a “robust” immune response and was safe in human subjects.
Lost chance to optimise take-up
Media reported the abandonment was considered necessary to maintain public confidence in the overall vaccine process.
Embracing an ethically untroubling alternative would also have maximised the chances of all Australians electing to receive it, Archbishop Fisher pointed out.
“Many Australians will be disappointed that, following the failure of the UQ vaccine, the Commonwealth Government has purchased an additional 20 million doses of the ethically-troubling AstaZeneca vaccine, increasing the 33.8 million to 53.8 million doses,” he said.
“This vaccine is grown on HEK293 cells derived from an aborted child. The Commonwealth should have focussed on ethically untroubling alternatives as most countries are doing. This would maximise the chances of whole-of-population take up.
Non-purchase policy puzzling
He added it is fortunate the federal government has also increased the number of doses of Novavax (from 40 million to 51 million) and has already secured some Pfizer vaccine (10 million doses).
However, he noted, “strangely it seems there has been no extra purchase of the Pfizer vaccine and none at all of the Moderna/NIH vaccine.” Both of these are considered free of ethical concerns by many ethicists.
Archbishop Fisher said the Church continues to be “very pro-vaccination and encourages research, production and use of vaccines that are ethically undertaken,” recommending those wanting to know more about the issues could read a highly informative article published by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the US.