A researcher holds a box containing vials of human embryonic Stem Cell cultures from the freezer at the Burnham Institute on November 3, 2004 in La Jolla, California.
  • US Catholic bishops released a statement urging people to avoid the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
  • The virus developed using human foetal tissue replicated from aborted stem cells.
  • Pope Francis previously said taking vaccines derived from aborted cells would be "morally acceptable."
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The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has advised that people avoid taking the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine because it was developed using cells from an aborted foetus. 

"Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production," a statement from the conference said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was "developed, tested, and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns."

In its place, the conference suggests that when possible, people should take either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines instead, even though both companies used stem cells from aborted foetuses during the testing phase of their vaccine research.

The statement follows a previous announcement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans on Friday that advised the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was "morally compromised, as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing."

Insider has reached out to Johnson & Johnson for comment.  Pope Francis has yet to specifically address the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the Vatican previously said it was "morally acceptable" to take vaccines "that have used cell lines from aborted foetuses in their research and production process."

In a statement released last December, the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that while it encouraged pharmaceutical researchers to create vaccines without employing the use of foetuses, it also advised that Catholics would not violate the church's beliefs if they used vaccines created using aborted cells.

"The certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in the production of the vaccines derive," the statement said, noting that using the vaccines should "not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines."

The cells used in the development of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine derive from a foetus aborted in the early 1970s and have been replicated numerous times across various scientific firms and pharmaceutical companies. 

The debate over the use of foetal stem cells has raged for several decades, with anti-abortion advocates arguing that supporting companies that do such research amounts to tacit approval of abortion. 

The US government regularly funds research employing foetal tissue. In 2014, for instance, the National Institutes of Health doled out around $76 million in support of projects using fetal cells, according to Scientific American

Former President Donald Trump restricted the use of aborted fetal tissue in research during his term, even though Regeneron, the antibody therapy he touted as a "cure" for Covid-19, was tested using fetal cells. The scientific community has released a letter to President Joe Biden calling on him to roll back Trump's restrictions to allow for increased fetal tissue use.

"We are confident that an independent and rigorous evaluation of the scientific and ethical merits of HFT [human foetal tissue] research would find that it will continue to advance scientific research and contribute to the development of new treatments," the letter said.

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