Dr. David Kaminskas
The Catholic Doctor Is In
April 9, 2020 // Perspective

Moral dilemmas in the use of vaccines

Dr. David Kaminskas
The Catholic Doctor Is In

Many years ago, my children received all the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Even though I was already a physician, I was ignorant of the fact that some of those vaccines were made from cell lines that came from aborted fetal cells. In the early 1960s, two abortions provided the fetal cells that were eventually immortalized: They could divide indefinitely in culture. It was soon learned that these cell lines would accept the foreign DNA required to make vaccines.

These immorally obtained fetal cells have been used to make multiple vaccines for the last 50 years. Some of the vaccines they made include chickenpox, rubella (the “R” in MMR) and hepatitis A.

Back in 2003, a letter was written to the Vatican by a concerned Catholic asking for moral guidance on the use of the rubella vaccine, since it originated from aborted fetal tissue. In 2005, after two years of research, discussion and debate, the Vatican published its recommendation in the form of a letter: “Moral reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human fetuses.”

In the letter, its authors first outline the harm that can come from rubella, also known at the German measles. Since I cannot summarize this any better than they did, allow me to quote from the letter: “Rubella (German measles) is a viral illness caused by a Togavirus of the genus Rubivirus and is characterized by a maculopapular rash. It consists of an infection which is common in infancy and has no clinical manifestations in one case out of two, is self-limiting and usually benign. Nonetheless, the German measles virus is one of the most pathological infective agents for the embryo and fetus. When a woman catches the infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, the risk of fetal infection is very high (approximately 95%). The virus replicates itself in the placenta and infects the fetus, causing the constellation of abnormalities denoted by the name Congenital Rubella Syndrome. For example, the severe epidemic of German measles which affected a huge part of the United States in 1964 thus caused 20,000 cases of congenital rubella, resulting in 11,250 abortions (spontaneous or surgical), 2,100 neonatal deaths, 11,600 cases of deafness, 3,580 cases of blindness, 1,800 cases of mental retardation. It was this epidemic that pushed for the development and introduction on the market of an effective vaccine against rubella.”

This official letter went on to discuss “the position of the ethical problems related to these vaccines” and “the principle of illicit cooperation in evil.” Their conclusion was that parents using the vaccine carry out a form of “very remote mediate material cooperation.” The bottom line (using language that we all can better understand) was that the Vatican saw the good that came from preventing all these birth defects in pregnant women and accepted the use of the rubella vaccine until such time that there could be alternative options.

Some theologians to this day continue to discuss and debate these findings. The Vatican did make it very clear in the 2005 letter that Catholics should be dedicated to “putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available.” 

Finally, after all these years, there are alternative cells that could be used for making these vaccines —thanks to the work done at the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. Scientists there have obtained stem cells from babies’ cord blood and from moms’ placentas to successfully produce cell lines that can be used for future vaccines. I believe the use of morally obtained stem cells is critical for the survival of the Catholic health care system and for Catholics in general.

The big question now is, will the giant pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines consider using this ethical option? To date they have not. It is easier and more convenient for them to just continue to use the cell lines taken from aborted fetuses years ago.

The John Paul II institute officials also believe that their cells could even be successfully used to create a vaccine for COVID-19. Pray that these morally obtained stem cells will be embraced by scientists and researchers for future use. I invite readers to visit www.jp2mri.org to learn more.

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