Some Catholics express concerns about Johnson & Johnson vaccine |

Some Catholics express concerns about Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Jefferson Geiger, Summit Daily
Syringes filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are pictured during a drive-thru clinic at the Summit Stage bus depot in Frisco on March 19. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are preferred by some members of the Catholic faith.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Matt Schroeder was excited when he first learned he was eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but he canceled his appointment with Summit County Public Health after discovering the dose would be coming from Johnson & Johnson.

The devout, anti-abortion Catholic was uncomfortable with the vaccine’s connection to using fetal cell lines.

“I called up our local pastor, and he encouraged me to follow my conscious and do what I thought was right,” said Schroeder, who is a board member for Women’s Resource Center of the Rockies. “So I canceled my appointment and prayed.”

According to the Vatican, Catholics have a moral duty to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus for the common good; however, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are preferred. If an alternative isn’t available, the Vatican states, “It is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

While Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines only in testing, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine used a fetal cell line called PER.C6 in manufacturing and development. PER.C6 is from an 18-week-old fetus in 1985 — the vaccine itself does not contain fetal cell lines.

Both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received the Pfizer vaccine in January.

Colorado bishops and the Archdiocese of Denver, which Summit County’s Our Lady of Peace and St. Mary are part of, echoed the Vatican.

“Given the availability of the more morally acceptable Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in Colorado, Catholics should avoid the morally compromised Johnson & Johnson … in favor of Moderna or Pfizer,” a statement reads.

Though Schroeder did not have the ability to choose that day, he did have the option of going elsewhere for a vaccine. The 60-year-old was able to receive the Moderna vaccine at City Market in Breckenridge a few days after his cancellation, and his second dose is scheduled for April 1.

“Individuals have requested vaccines different than the ones we are offering on any current week,” Summit County spokesperson Nicole Valentine wrote in an email. “We can only offer what the state allocates to us, and it changes each week. … If the vaccine we are offering is not one that an individual wants, they can always decline the vaccination invite to go back in the lottery for a future vaccine appointment where we may have a different vaccine brand available.”

It is currently uncommon to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Summit County. St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, for example, has only received Moderna and Pfzier vaccines. Nevertheless, the hospital’s scheduling system tells the public what vaccine they are receiving in case people want to reschedule.

County vaccine distribution volunteer Ken Maldonado said he has witnessed only one Johnson & Johnson vaccine drive-thru clinic. Maldonado, a Catholic, received the Pfizer vaccine before the Johnson & Johnson one was available, and he said he has no issues with helping people get vaccinated with it.

“If you did the research, you would see that the stem cells that were used were so far removed from the aborted fetus … and it did not contain any of those cells.” Maldonado said, adding that the Pope getting vaccinated made his decision even easier. “This is years of regeneration.”

Maldonado likens vaccine preferences to any issue individual Catholics are divided on, such as gay marriage or contraception or what holy days and practices people do or don’t obverse. He said it’s mainly the older parishioners who are worried about the fetal cell lines.

“It really depends on who you embrace, who you look to and, of course, what the bishops and the Pope say,” Maldonado said about people’s individual decisions.

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