On December 21, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Note, approved by Pope Francis for publication of the Note on the morality of the use of some vaccines against Covid-19. We think it is a particularly clarifying document on the moral use of these vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines moral use is clearly defined by the document

Without wishing to summarize the relatively short document, we believe it useful to highlight five specific aspects of it:

  1. Vaccines produced using cell lines obtained from aborted fetuses can morally be used when other ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available.
  2. The moral duty to avoid passive material cooperation with evil is not obligatory if there is a grave danger of spreading a pathogenic agent such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. Therefore, all vaccines recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of vaccines produced using cells from past abortions does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in the production of the vaccines derive. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines does not in itself constitute a legitimization, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and assumes opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.
  3. The licit use of these vaccines do not and should not in any way imply moral approval of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses for any other purpose.
  4. Vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation, and therefore it must be voluntary; nevertheless, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health but also on the duty to pursue the common good. Vaccination of all persons may therefore be recommended, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.
  5. Governments, international organizations and pharmaceutical companies must ensure that vaccines that are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them.

This note confirms what has already been published by our UCV Bioethics Observatory in relation to the morality of the use of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

To summarize, in our view, the fundamental aspect of this Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the reference to the use of vaccines in which cells from aborted fetuses have been used for their production, as is the case of the vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca. These vaccines can be used with no moral risk, provided there are no others that have not used these types of cells. However, since at this time the two vaccines authorized by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency to begin use in some countries are those of Pfizer and Moderna, which are mRNA vaccines, these are the ones that morally it is advisable to use.


Justo Aznar

Bioethics Observatory – Institute of life Sciences

Catholic University of Valencia


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