Promising ethical COVID vaccine welcomed

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‘Breakthrough’ vaccine makes no use of a foetal cell-line. PHOTO: CNS/Dado Ruvic, Reuters

Great news on promising vaccine trials

Heath experts and faith leaders welcomed news that a promising COVID-19 vaccine secured by the Australian Government is free from any connection to a selective abortion.

Announcing data from preliminary findings, firms Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine can prevent more than 90 per cent of people from contracting the disease.

Helen Watt of the UK’s Anscombe Bioethics Centre has closely followed the development of the world’s leading vaccine candidates. She confirmed that the vaccine is foetal cell-free. “It makes no use of a foetal cell-line in the production process itself, and no use in the design,” she told media.

“We must ensure the vaccine is distributed safely and fairly” – Pat Garcia

In addition, Pfizer said there have been no safety concerns raised about the 43,000 people from diverse backgrounds given the vaccine. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech to supply 10 million doses last week.

“Everyone in our health and aged care community will welcome this news,” said chief executive officer of Catholic Health Australia Pat Garcia.

“We must ensure the vaccine is distributed safely and fairly and that the most vulnerable and those at the greatest risk are given priority,” Mr Garcia told The Catholic Weekly.

“Our members will be greatly relieved that the development of this vaccine did not transgress Catholic ethical standards. This is really good news and we look forward to its roll out across the sector.”

Catholic Health Australia’s Pat Garcia

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said he was “delighted” by Pfizer’s announcement. “I pray that the vaccine proves to be as safe and effective as it seems,” the archbishop said in a statement.

“It is particularly consoling that this vaccine was developed without using any cell-lines derived from an aborted child. It demonstrates that good science and sound ethics can go hand in hand.

“I call on our Commonwealth Government to obtain sufficient doses for the Australian population and for our smaller, poorer Pacific neighbours.”

The Catholic Medical Association of Australia also welcomed the “promising developments” from Pfizer. “While acknowledging the necessity of vaccines, the association echoes calls that these should be developed using ethical means that respects both the dignity of human life, and the consciences of those who would benefit from them,” said spokesperson Fr Paschal M. Corby OFM Conv.

Meanwhile, manufacturing of the Oxford University’s vaccine, which was developed using a human foetal cell line, began in Victoria last Monday, with about 30 million doses being made.

The Government also has a deal with the University of Queensland on another vaccine it is producing in partnership with Australian biotech company CSL. Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli wrote to Australian Catholics in September that the University of Queensland vaccine was considered ethically acceptable.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has emphasised that it accepts the use of an ethically compromised vaccine “if no other option is available, in order to protect lives”.

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