San Antonio archbishop reinforces church’s position regarding Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Johnson and Johnson vaccine renews fetal cell concerns

Does San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller approve of parishioners opting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
Does San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller approve of parishioners opting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

SAN ANTONIO – Social media and some of the nation’s church leaders have expressed renewed concerns over fetal cells being used in the testing and development of two COVID-19 vaccines and in the production of the third vaccine from Johnson and Johnson.

San Antonio Archdiocese Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller has reinforced the church’s position regarding all three vaccines.

“Please take the vaccine that is available to you,” he said. “People, they should not think that morally they will be at fault.”

Garcia-Siller echoed a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that he also reads on the Catholic TV San Antonio Facebook page.

Since vaccines are not readily available to everyone yet, Garcia-Siller said, “We don’t have enough vaccines, so the three of them, the church will allow us to take.”

Pope Francis also has addressed the issue through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Its statement published by Vatican News in December said, “It is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

Due to the pandemic, it also states using the vaccines “does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist at UT Health, said, “No fetuses were aborted and no tissue was taken from a fetus or baby in the production of these vaccines right now.”

Berggren confirmed both Moderna and Pfizer used fetal cell lines in the testing and development of their vaccines, while Johnson and Johnson vaccine also used them in the production of its vaccine.

The archbishop said it was concerning that Johnson and Johnson used “some remote cells of abortion tissue” to produce the vaccine, but he understood none of the those cells are in the vaccine itself.

“The virus propagates and replicates itself in those human cells, but then that is separated out,” Berggren said.

She said the modified adenovirus contains a piece of DNA that encodes the spike protein.

“That is in the vaccine, not the cells,” Berggren said.

Berggren said the human body’s immune system would reject other human cells.

She said fetal cell lines have been used for years.

“There are many vaccines and drug products that we wouldn’t have today had these cell lines not been used,” Berggren said.

As examples, Berggren pointed to the vaccines for hepatitis A, measles, mumps and rubella, shingles, as well as lifesaving drugs to treat hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.

Given what’s a stake right now, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, “The best health care is a priority for us in a pandemic.”

Read below Garcia-Siller’s statement regarding Gov. Greg Abbott’s March 10 executive order.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Bill Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.