A Long Island diocese issued a memo warning Catholics against getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines that is now available, saying it raises moral and ethical implications due to how it was produced.
The Rockville Center diocese echoed a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week that advised Catholics to avoid the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if possible. The reason: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was produces using cell lines derived from fetuses aborted decades.
"As a Catholic, I probably would avoid that if possible," said teacher Meaghan O'Brien, who had just heard about the advice from the church.
Northwell Health's Chief of Medicine Dr. David Battinelli didn't want to address moral quandaries regarding the vaccine, saying instead that the manner in which that particular vaccine was produced is "a very common modality, not specific to vaccines" and it's has "always been a little controversial."
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However, the head of Long Island's Episcopal Church called the message from the diocese reckless and misleading.
"It scares people. It calls into question whether they are doing the morally right thing," said Right Rev. Lawrence Provenzano. "And in this instance, when the health and safety of some, many, is at stake, I think that was a mistake."
The diocese memo does add that if no other vaccines are available, Catholics may choose the Johnson & Johnson one. The diocese statement also does not question the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine, only the moral dilemma.
It is important to note that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also used the fetal cell lines in the research that led up to the creation of the vaccine.
Some didn't seem phased by how it was produced, instead focusing on the benefits it provides.
"I'm Catholic and I have no doubt I am getting the shot," said Donna Clements. Another woman said she would be getting it to avoid getting sick and so she could spend time with her kids.
Catholic teacher O'Brien said that overall, she would need to reconsider her initial concerns.
"Now that I know more about it, I would do more research to find out about it," she said.