Vatican COVID-19 Commission Promotes Vaccine Access for the Vulnerable

In the Dec. 29 document, the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, together with the Pontifical Academy for Life, reiterated Pope Francis’ call that the vaccine be made available to everyone to avoid injustice.

An elderly man receives the COVID vaccine.
An elderly man receives the COVID vaccine. (photo: Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s COVID-19 commission said Tuesday it is working to help promote fair access to the coronavirus vaccine, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

In a note published Dec. 29, the commission, which was formed at Pope Francis’ request in April, stated its six objectives in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine.

These objectives will serve as guidelines for the commission’s work, with the general intention of obtaining “a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19 so that treatment is available to all, with a particular concern for the most vulnerable…”

The head of the commission, Cardinal Peter Turkson, said in a press release Dec. 29 that the members “are grateful to the scientific community for developing the vaccine in record time. It is now up to us to ensure that it is available to all, especially the most vulnerable. It is a matter of justice. This is the time to show we are one human family.”

Commission member and Vatican official Fr. Augusto Zampini said “the way in which vaccines are deployed – where, to whom, and for how much – is the first step for global leaders to take in committing to fairness and justice as the principles for building a better post-Covid world.”

The commission plans to carry out an ethical-scientific evaluation of the “vaccine quality, methodology and pricing;” to work with local Churches and other Church groups to prepare for the vaccine; to collaborate with secular organizations in the global vaccine administration; to deepen the “understanding and commitment of the Church in protecting and promoting the God-given dignity of all;” and “leading by example” in the equitable distribution of the vaccine and other treatments.

In the Dec. 29 document, the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, together with the Pontifical Academy for Life, reiterated Pope Francis’ call that the vaccine be made available to everyone to avoid injustice.

The document also referenced a Dec. 21 note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the morality of receiving certain COVID-19 vaccines.

In that note, the CDF said “it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process” when “ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available.”

The Vatican coronavirus commission said in its document that it considers it important that “a responsible decision” be taken with regard to undergoing vaccination, and emphasized “the relationship between personal health and public health.”

Pharmacist Serena Burgdorf administers a Covid-19 Moderna vaccine shot to Christine Griffin, Army Veteran, who has a spinal injury and is inpatient at the West Roxbury VA Medical Center in Boston, MA on December 23, 2020. The VA is vaccinating front line workers and at risk patients during phase one.

The Morality of the COVID-19 Vaccines

If morally unproblematic alternatives were available, one should refuse anything produced or tested using cell lines made from aborted fetuses for the sake of honoring the inherent dignity of the aborted victim. The question remains, is it always and everywhere wrong for a person, to avail themselves of this benefit if no alternatives are available?