Pastoral statement on potential Covid-19 vaccines in the Philippines

Pastoral statement on potential Covid-19 vaccines in the Philippines

After almost a year of suffering the ravages of the pandemic– both in terms of lost lives and a devastated economy – it is only right that we thank God for the news that scientists have developed vaccines to immunize persons against COVID-19. We therefore support the efforts of our national government to procure and to deploy these vaccines in our country, and we thank the private organizations who have come forward to help acquire them. We urge our government and the private organizations who have helped fund the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines to commit themselves to a single vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes medical frontliners and those who are most at risk for COVID-19. It would be a moral tragedy if young, healthy company employees who are at low risk for the disease are immunized before our doctors, nurses, and other frontliners, and before our senior citizens who are at higher risk for illness.

We especially commend our national government for considering the poor in our national vaccination program. The poor are beloved of the Lord. They should be especially protected because their poverty makes them vulnerable to infection and severe disease. The COVID-19 vaccines will only be able to end the pandemic in our country if enough Filipinos are vaccinated so we urge all of our people to be immunized when the vaccines arrive in the Philippines. Nonetheless, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience” (§1782). We therefore recognize that each individual person should be left free to decide to choose to be vaccinated or not according to his or her conscience with full awareness of the obligation to protect oneself from being an instrument of contagion and the farther spread of the virus.

As pastors, we have to call attention to one ethical concern. We have learned that some of the COVID-19 vaccines were manufactured using cells obtained from the remains of an aborted female fetus who was killed in 1973. The perennial teaching of the Church must be repeated: Deliberately procuring abortion, even if it is for the purpose of obtaining material for vaccines, is morally unacceptable. The end does not justify the means; otherwise, the most inhuman and inhumane acts would be permissible in order to attain supposedly “worthwhile” ends.

In our October 17, 2020, CBCP guidelines, we said that “if there are several available vaccines we urge the national government to prioritize vaccines that were developed without the use of the morally controversial cell lines derived from the remains of an aborted child.”

At the same time the Vatican has recently explained, “when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

We thank our scientists who have once more applied their expertise to the welfare of human beings and to their protection from the dreaded scourge of disease. We know that the study and work that precede the production of a vaccine are arduous. We commend our brothers and sisters who have perished to the love of God, and we raise a common prayer of thanksgiving for our health workers and other front liners who served most gallantly in these terrible months that have gone by.

May St. Joseph, who saved the Child Jesus and his Mother, from the deadly designs of a king continue to protect us. May Mary, Health of the Sick and Help of Christians, pray for us.

+RICARDO L. BACCAY, D.D.
Chairman, Office on Bioethics
January 8, 2021

Endorsed:

+ROMULO G. VALLES, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
CBCP President

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