VATICAN CITY – Parents may allow their children to be inoculated with vaccines that were produced with cells of illicit origin, said a top Vatican official.
However, Catholics also must urge doctors and pharmaceutical companies to let alternative, less controversial vaccines become more widely available for use, said Bishop Elio Sgreccia, former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who helped the Vatican prepare a new bioethics document.
The document said, however, that researchers and people involved in marketing vaccines have “the duty to avoid cooperation in evil and scandal” and must “refuse to use such biological material even when there is no close connection between the researcher” and those who destroyed the embryo or performed the abortion.
The use of human embryos or fetuses for research or the production of vaccines and other products is immoral and “constitutes a crime against (the embryos’) dignity as human beings,” said the document, “Dignitas Personae” (“The Dignity of a Person”). The document was released Dec. 12 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Human cell lines coming from abortions cannot be prepared or used ethically by researchers even if they were obtained commercially from a different research facility, the document said.
However, some “grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such ‘biological material,’“ it said.
For example, guaranteeing the health of a child “could permit parents to use a vaccine that was developed using cell lines of illicit origin,” it said.
But everyone, including doctors and parents, “has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their health care system make other types of vaccines available,” the document said.
The human cell lines used to cultivate the production of many vaccines used today come from tissue derived from two human fetuses aborted in 1964 and 1970.
Because the abortions occurred so long ago, Bishop Sgreccia said a parent’s consent to use vaccines associated with those cell lines does not reflect any form of cooperation with the evil of the original abortions.
There is no risk of causing scandal either, he said, because using such vaccines in no way encourages more abortions.
While parents are not obliged to vaccinate their child, they do have a duty to protect their child’s health, he said.
Some governments and schools, however, do mandate that children be inoculated in efforts to stop the spread of certain infectious diseases, he said.
For this reason, national health systems must “change course” and substitute controversial vaccines for alternatives so Catholics will no longer be forced to act against their consciences, he said.
Bishop Sgreccia said effective vaccines that are not derived from human embryos or fetuses are being produced and are on the market, but that they are not always available in every country.
He said pharmaceutical companies that have a large surplus of vaccines prepared from human cell lines would lose money if they switched to new vaccine preparations, but parents should continue to put pressure on these companies and health care providers, urging them to let these new vaccines become available for use.