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Vaccine Ethics

Recently, my bishop, Peter Carrell (online twitter, website, resources), was asked about the ethics of receiving the Astra Zeneca anti-Covid-19 vaccine when (in lay terms) its (distant) origins include the use of tissue from an aborted foetus. It was noted that Pope Francis, the leader of Roman Catholics, has said that this is ethical. People are wondering if there is an Anglican (or wider Christian, or even beyond that) position.

Bishop Peter asked me and some others to outline some ethical reflection about this. Here, essentially, are my six points:

1) the Pope has consented to the use of Astra Zeneca vaccine by following through the logic of Natural Law – one of the systematic ways to make decisions on morals;
2) using organs from a human being who died unethically is not thereby endorsing the immorality associated with the death.
If someone is murdered, using any part of the body – say by organ donation – is not thereby endorsing the murder.
3) If the creation of the vaccine was the motivation for the abortion, that, in Natural Law, would make such a vaccine unethical. That is not the case here. 
4) The vaccine production does not require the continuation of abortions.
5) Not being vaccinated would lead to more deaths – including the person not being vaccinated possibly causing deaths.
6) Some may have a choice between a vaccine that is not sourced in an abortion and one that is – in such a case, the vaccine not sourced in an abortion may be preferred. 

COVID-19 vaccines and their link with abortion – a Christian moral perspective. (by Dr John Kleinsman – Nathaniel Center for Bioethics and Dr Graham O’Brien – InterChurch Bioethics Council)

The Astra Zeneca vaccine is moral to be received. Christians should be vaccinated against Covid-19 and participate in overcoming the threat of the virus, and loving our neighbours as ourselves.

There are further vaccine ethical issues, beyond the scope of this post, about the provision of vaccines in the wider community of nations so that poorer nations are not disadvantaged. Within countries, there are distribution concerns around the order in which groups are vaccinated.

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4 thoughts on “Vaccine Ethics”

  1. Thanks very much indeed for this, Bosco. I found the Kleinsman/O’Brien summary very helpful.

    This application of the principle of double effect puts me in mind of the scruples of surgeons around using the Pernkopf “Atlas of Human Anatomy,” whose unrivalled drawings were made from the dissected corpses of people executed under the Nazis: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-49294861

    Thanks also for your concluding comments, which remind us that the ethical questions around COVID-19 vaccination are larger than just their source.

    I must say, though, that it is frustrating that our government in Canada has offered concern about “equitable distribution” as an excuse for the unaccountably slow rollout of vaccinations here, when investigative journalists are now revealing that the delay has been caused by
    old-fashioned incompetence, or even, in some cases, by malicious attempts to extort political concessions from opponents of the federal Liberals at the provincial level!

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