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Archdiocese of Denver advises Catholics to pick Moderna, Pfizer vaccines over Johnson & Johnson

The archdiocese's sentiment echoes the opinions of the Vatican and the US Conference of Bishops.

DENVER — The Archdiocese of Denver is encouraging Colorado’s Catholics to avoid the “morally compromised” Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine if they can choose the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines instead.

All three options used cell lines from aborted fetal tissue in some way, though Moderna and Pfizer limited the application to testing. Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine included the cell lines in development and production, as well.

“Because the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines relied less on the abortion-derived cell lines, the Archdiocese of Denver advises that for Catholics who desire to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if they have the option in what vaccine they receive, they should choose Moderna or Pfizer over the more morally compromised Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” the archdiocese wrote in a statement to 9NEWS.

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While the archdiocese does not explicitly tell Catholics not to take the Johnson & Johnson shot, their sentiment echoes the opinions of the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

These organizations also said taking a vaccine like Johnson & Johnson’s is acceptable when a more “ethically irreproachable” vaccine is not available.

"The Catholic Church teaches that it is morally permissible to seek and receive a vaccine that has not been ethically developed, when there is no other alternative, [and] there is a serious risk to one’s health," the archdiocese said.

In a press conference Thursday, Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France said he had not yet heard about any Catholic opposition to the vaccine, but the department will look more into that and see how it can best be supportive of each Coloradan’s decision.

Though the state does suggest Coloradans get whichever vaccine is first offered to them.

“Coloradans are encouraged to schedule an appointment and get vaccinated when they are eligible regardless of which vaccine their provider is offering,” Colorado State Joint Information Center said in a statement about the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Colorado’s first shipment of the new vaccine was scheduled to arrive Thursday. Earlier this week, CDPHE said these vaccines should become available almost immediately.

As for providers, the ability to cherry-pick from the vaccines is restricted. SCL Health, UC Health, Denver Health and HealthOne told 9NEWS that because of supply, patients generally cannot choose which vaccine they get. With that said, Coloradans will be able to know which vaccine is at a certain site or clinic when setting up an appointment, according to the state. 

The dioceses in Colorado Springs and Pueblo have also advised choosing the Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines when possible.

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