It was the third vaccine approved by the FDA and the first that only required one dose, but in recent days, there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the vaccine created by Johnson and Johnson.
At the center of the controversy are some moral concerns due to the fact that the company developed the vaccine using stem cells harvested from aborted fetuses from over 30 years ago.
So what does this exactly mean? Well the vaccine itself does not actually contain any kind of fetal cells. In production, the vaccine was produced using those cells to "grow" the virus. In the vaccine is actually a dose of that engineered virus.
Interestingly enough, Johnson and Johnson isn’t the only company to have used aborted fetal cells though. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines used those cells. The difference is that they used them in testing the shot, not making it. Using fetal cells to produce vaccines isn’t really a new trend, though. Other vaccines such as the chicken pox and rabies shots have also been engineered using those fetal stem cells.
Even so, this caused many Catholics and other Christians to oppose the distribution of the vaccine, forcing several bishops in the area to release statements about the moral concerns.
Naturally, the Vatican was the first to come out with a statement. Prior to the J&J vaccine’s approval and distribution, the statement read, “When ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses.”
Over two months after this statement was released and just over a week after the vaccine’s distribution began, the Archdiocese of New Orleans issued a statement saying “If the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”
Shortly after this statement, however, Bishop Michael Duca of the Diocese of Baton Rouge released his statement which said “If for any reasonable circumstance you are only able to receive the vaccine from Johnson and Johnson, you should feel free to do so for your safety and for the common good.”
Governor John Bel Edwards, who himself is a practicing Catholic, addressed these concerns by saying that he encourages people to get vaccinated by whichever of the three options is made available to them.
“You do have to weigh this common good of ending a pandemic. There’s an imperative that we do this; the fastest way to do this is to employ all of the vaccines and have the uptake in those vaccines be as great as possible,” Edwards said.
President of LSU’s Pro- Life Club and LSU junior Gabrielle Gremillion says even though the Church has approved people to receive the vaccine, she still believes the moral concerns are too great to overlook.
“Unless they’ve declared it an order, we are still allowed to have our own personal opinions on that. They have not told us to receive it; they’ve just said that it’s acceptable and you can," Gremillion said.
"And so that leaves it up to the interpretation of the members of the Church, like if they want to get it or not. Personally I will not be getting it because I do not believe that it’s far enough removed from evil,” she continued.
The statement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans also said “In no way does the Church’s position diminish the wrongdoing of those who decided to use cell lines from abortions to make vaccines.”
Even so, the message from Church leadership remained virtually the same across the board: get vaccinated if you can, and if there’s no way to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the Johnson and Johnson option is acceptable.
“I’m encouraging everyone out there to take the first vaccine that is available to them whether it’s Pfizer, whether it’s Moderna, or whether it is Johnson and Johnson,” said Edwards.
The governor also stated that when a person schedules a vaccine appointment, they will be told which vaccine will be administered, allowing them to have some control in which treatment to receive.
LSU students can also complete a pre-registration survey to let the university know if they want to receive a vaccine when they become available. This will help determine how many doses are required.