MELBOURNE Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli has written a letter to Australian Catholics, explaining the Church’s advocacy for “ethically acceptable” COVID-19 vaccines, that do not use aborted foetal cell lines in their development.
The University of Queensland vaccine project, in partnership with Australian biotech company CSL, is one that Bishop Comensoli singles out as acceptable.
He is also clear that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference accepts the use of an ethically compromised vaccine “if no other option is available, in order to protect lives”.
Archbishop Comensoli’s letter to Australian Catholics follows a meeting with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt earlier this month to discuss the Church’s position and to urge that the provision of vaccines would offer a choice and “would encourage the best possible vaccine coverage in our population”.
“… We have to be mindful of how vaccines are developed and discourage research that fails to respect the dignity of unborn human life,” he wrote to Australian Catholics.
“That is why Catholic bishops around the world are advocating for ethical development of vaccines.
“Some vaccines have been and are being developed using cell lines of tissue derived from abortions, sometimes performed decades ago.
“As people of faith concerned for the common good, we cannot accept abortion, and we advocate for vaccines to be produced without reliance on human tissue derived from an abortion.
“Where there is a choice, we encourage people to use a vaccine that has not been developed using human foetal cells deriving from abortion.
“The bishops accept that the use of an ethically compromised vaccine is acceptable if no other option is available, in order to protect lives.”
Last month Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher raised concerns about the use of aborted foetal cell lines in the development of vaccines, but Archbishop Comensoli has written to the faithful on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
The Federal Government has announced agreements with two groups working on a vaccine at this stage.
These are the Oxford University AstraZeneca (AZD1222), slated to be available from early 2021, and the University of Queensland/CSL Limited (V451) version that is on track for the middle of next year.
Archbishop Comensoli said while the Oxford vaccine was being developed using aborted foetal cell lines, “it is our understanding that the V451 project does not use cell lines taken from an aborted child but uses a human ovarian cell line”.
“For this reason, it appears to be an ethically acceptable option,” he said.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is in the third phase of trials and is considered one of the best hopes in the world, with regulatory approval expected to be sought soon.
The first stage of an agreement secured by the Australian Government would see 3.8 million doses of the Oxford vaccine delivered in January and February next year.
A call to arms has gone out to Queenslanders aged 56 and over to help advance UQ’s COVID-19 vaccine project.
The university recently announced that pre-clinical testing showed its vaccine was already effective in animal models.
UQ vaccine project co-leader Professor Paul Young said a Phase 1 human trial in Brisbane would be expanded to help gauge the vaccine’s safety among an older demographic, most susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms.
“We’re looking to ensure that this vaccine candidate is safe for use in older people,” Prof Young said.
“By conducting this expanded safety study, we’ll be able to gather key data to support the large-scale efficacy trials that our partners at CSL are planning to run in the near future.”
Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles has encouraged volunteers to sign up for the trial and “do it for Queensland”.
“This pandemic is the biggest challenge we’ve ever had to face,” he said.
“By taking part in these clinical trials, you could play a very real role in saving lives.”
Experts believe the vaccination of at least two-thirds of the population will be required to have a chance of halting the spread of COVID-19.
Read Archbishop Comensoli’s letter to Catholics here on the ACBC’s media blog.