Catholic Teaching on Vaccinations and Covid-19 Vaccines
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The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated families and communities around the world. Finally, there is hope for the end of the pandemic coming in the form of vaccines that deemed safe and effective by FDA and medical community and morally acceptable by Vatican, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and California Catholic Conference of Bishops, and Charlotte Lozier Institute.
As a faith community concerned about the sanctity of human life, the Diocese of San Jose encourages everyone to strongly consider getting vaccinated, after consulting their physicians or health care providers, for the sake of their own health and the common good of our community.
Vaccines are free. Health insurance and immigration status will not affect your eligibility. To book a vaccine appointment with your healthcare system or at one of the County’s open-to-all locations or get a list of this week’s no-appointment sites, visit www.sccfreevax.org. Appointment information is also available in 中文 | Español | Tiếng Việt | Tagalog
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Catholics receive the COVID-19 vaccines?
Yes. Currently, all three of the vaccines in common use in the United States–Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson–have some connection to the use of aborted fetal tissue in testing or production, which has led some Catholics and other people of good will to wonder whether they can in good conscience make use of the vaccines. This connection, however, is remote and those who receive any of the vaccines neither cooperate formally or materially in moral evil. In the absence of alternatives, and when there is a sufficient reason to do so (such as to contain the spread of a serious infectious agent), Catholics can, in good conscience, receive the vaccines. See the section below on the Statements on the Moral and Ethical Aspects for more detailed information.
Does the Church encourage Catholics to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes. While the available vaccines do not provide 100% protection against transmission and infection of COVID-19, and in particular against the so-called “Delta variant,” they do still provide a significant degree of protection and greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization and even death should breakthrough infection occur. For these reasons, Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have all encouraged Catholics, in consultation with their doctors, to make use of the COVID-19 vaccines as an effective means of preventing COVID-19.
Can Catholics choose, in good conscience, NOT to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. While everyone has a duty to preserve his or her own life and to act in accord with the common good, medical treatment should, in principle, be voluntary. No one should ever be forced to undergo any medical treatment, including vaccination. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services states, “The free and informed consent of the person…is required for medical treatments and procedures.” However, if someone chooses not to be vaccinated, then, in keeping with the common good, he or she has an obligation to observe additional measures (i.e. frequent testing, masking, social distancing, etc.) to limit the spread of infectious disease.
What about a religious exemption if I choose not to be vaccinated?
A religious exemption, rather than appealing to the judgment of one’s individual conscience, appeals explicitly to religious teaching or doctrine. While an individual to appeal to his or her own conscience in refusing COVID-19 vaccination, a Catholic cannot claim that any teaching of the Catholic Church actually prevents him or her from receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccines, since the Church has clearly taught that it is morally acceptable to make use of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
Statements on the Moral and Ethical Aspects
The moral questions raised by the connection of some vaccines to past abortions are not new to the Catholic Church. Since 2005, the Catholic Church has provided consistent guidance on these matters. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, various Church bodies have promulgated specific guidance regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
|YouTube Video – COVID-19 Vaccines – Moral and Ethical Concerns|
U.S. Bishop Chairmen for Doctrine and for Pro-Life Address the Use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.’
Los Presidentes de los Comités de Doctrina y Actividades Pro-Vida de la USCCB se Pronuncian Sobre el Uso de la Vacuna de Johnson & Johnson contra el Covid-19.
La Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe ha juzgado que ‘cuando las vacunas contra el COVID-19, que son éticamente irreprochables no están disponibles…, es moralmente aceptable recibir vacunas contra el COVID-19 que han utilizado líneas celulares de fetos abortados en su proceso de investigación y producción’. 
|Moral Considerations Regarding the New COVID-19 Vaccines||Consideraciones Morales Con Respecto A Las Nuevas Vacunas Contra El Covid-19|
|Answers to Key Ethical Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines||Respuestas a las preguntas éticas clave sobre las vacunas contra el covid-19|
California Catholic Conference
Other Bioethics Resources
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitatis personae(see especially nn. 34-35). [link]
- Pontifical Academy for Life (2017), “Note on Italian Vaccine Issue.” [link]
- Pontifical Academy for Life (2005), “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses.” [link]
Specific to COVID-19 Vaccines:
More will be added as they become in available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese
- COVID-19 Vaccine: Resources for Church Leaders
- COVID-19 Vaccine Informational Handouts: English, Spanish, Vietnamese