On Monday, shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the Diocese of Savannah. Moderna's vaccine is expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this week, with delivery to Georgia several days thereafter. This is indeed wonderful news – hope in the midst of this Season of Hope — and I ask that we continue to pray for an end to the pandemic. May the Divine Physician restore us to health in body, mind and spirit.
I know that many of you have concerns about the moral and ethical development of these vaccines; in particular, the use of cell lines or processes that involve cells from aborted children.
Because respect for the dignity of the unborn and their right to life holds the pre-eminent place in the Church’s moral and social teaching, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other Catholic and pro-life organizations have been advocating for the development of a vaccine with no link to abortion. They have also been involved in assessing all of the vaccines in production so that recipients can make well-informed decisions regarding vaccine choices.1
On December 14, 2020, the USCCB released a statement on moral concerns about the creation of a vaccine for COVID-19.2 Regarding the vaccines mentioned above:
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna used morally compromised cell lines in the design, development, or production of the vaccine. A confirmatory test, however, employing the commonly used, but morally compromised HEK293 cell line was performed on both vaccines. Thus, while neither vaccine is completely free from any connection to morally compromised cell lines, in this case the connection is very remote from the initial evil of the abortion. In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines. [emphasis added]
In short, because there is a serious health concern and no other options are available, it is morally permissible to receive one of these vaccines. If you wish to be vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to do so.
The Catholic Church does not forbid the use of morally compromised vaccines, but does encourage discernment regarding their use. As other COVID-19 vaccines receive FDA approval and consumer choice is restored, I ask that vaccine recipients give careful consideration to the development and production of all available vaccines and make decisions based on an informed conscience.3
May Our Lord continue to bless, guide and inspire everyone working to bring us through this crisis, especially front-line medical and emergency personnel and those researching, developing and testing vaccines and other pharmaceuticals.
I thank all of you for your continued observance of our diocesan guidelines, and for your vigilance in caring for one another. Let us pray for wisdom and patience while vaccines and treatments are developed and perfected, especially those with no connection to the evil of abortion.
Please know that I pray for you, your loved ones and your intentions. I ask you to pray for me and my Episcopal ministry here in the Diocese of Savannah. Although we may not see one another each day, we can meet each day in our prayers. May we Rejoice in the Lord always!
Most Rev. Stephen D. Parkes, DD
Bishop of Savannah
March 3, 2021 Update:
On March 2, 2021, the USCCB released a statement on moral concerns about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine:
The approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the United States again raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines.
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. 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.” However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.
“La aprobación de la vacuna de Johnson & Johnson contra el COVID-19 para su uso en Estados Unidos vuelve a plantear interrogantes sobre la permisibilidad moral del uso de vacunas desarrolladas, probadas y/o producidas con la ayuda de líneas celulares derivadas del aborto.
Las vacunas de Pfizer y Moderna generaron preocupación debido a que se utilizó una línea celular derivada del aborto para probarlas, aunque no en su producción. Sin embargo, la vacuna de Johnson & Johnson se desarrolló, probó y se produce con líneas celulares derivadas del aborto, lo que genera preocupaciones morales adicionales. 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’. 
Sin embargo, si se puede elegir entre vacunas contra el COVID-19 igualmente seguras y efectivas, se debe elegir la vacuna con la menor conexión con las líneas celulares derivadas del aborto. Por lo tanto, si la persona tiene la capacidad de elegir una vacuna, se debe elegir entre las vacunas creadas por Pfizer o Moderna, en vez de la producida por Johnson & Johnson.
Mientras que nosotros debemos seguir insistiendo en que las empresas farmacéuticas dejen de usar líneas celulares derivadas del aborto, dado el sufrimiento que está causando esta pandemia a nivel mundial, afirmamos nuevamente que vacunarse puede ser un acto de caridad que responde al bienestar común”.