" Reception of the vaccine can be viewed as an act of charity for others. " Archbishop Alexander Sample
Archbishop Alexander Sample on Jan. 13 issued a letter assuring Catholics that receiving inoculations against COVID-19 is morally permissible, especially the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The archbishop said that he plans to be vaccinated when the shots are available for people in his age group.

The archbishop noted that the Vatican teaches that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that individuals must follow their consciences on the matter. However, the letter went on, Catholics are to consider their own health and the common good when weighing the morality of vaccination.

“Those who choose not to get vaccinated must take practical measures not to place other people at risk, especially those vulnerable to the virus,” the archbishop wrote. “Reception of the vaccine can be viewed as an act of charity for others, especially when it is received by those less susceptible to the virus and its effects.”

The archbishop opened the letter by responding to news of the vaccines: “Thanks be to God, who has heard our pleas for relief.”

On moral questions, the archbishop cites the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, both of which say reception of the currently developed vaccines is morally permissible. The question arises because the vaccines have some connection with abortion. In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the connection is very remote, the archbishop said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, by contrast, used an aborted fetal cell line for production. But, the letter said, “the danger and gravity of the pandemic provide sufficient reason to deem its reception morally permissible when no other vaccine is readily available.”

Use of any of the vaccines does not constitute endorsement of abortion on the part of the church,” the archbishop said, adding that all have an obligation to urge pharmaceutical companies and biomedical researchers to avoid using morally compromised cell lines.

“Each person who receives the vaccine brings us closer to the threshold needed to reach community immunity,” the archbishop wrote. “Achieving the vaccination rates to reach community immunity will likely take us well into 2021 and will depend on many factors. In the meantime, we will continue to practice social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and cleaning commonly used surfaces.”

The archbishop closed the letter by thanking health care professionals and first responders.