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Bishops say vaccines against virus are morally acceptable

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SAN DIEGO – The idea of participating in a clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 interested San Diego Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan. A fellow priest told him there was an opportunity to do so.

First, the bishop had to make sure that there was no ethical problem with the vaccine. Stories swirled that a cell line from an aborted fetus had been used to develop it.

He discovered that the claim had been thoroughly researched by reputable organizations, which had concluded that it was morally acceptable to get the vaccine.

That made up his mind.

“I was happy to take part in the study,” he said.

The vaccine has two steps. He received the first shot in November and the second one 21 days later. He was not told whether he received the vaccine or a placebo.

He’s being closely monitored by Pfizer, a process that will last two years.

“So far so good,” he said in mid-December, adding that he had no side effects from the shots.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed that the vaccine was 95 percent effective against the coronavirus, and approved it for emergency use on Dec. 11. The vaccine was administered in San Diego County starting on Dec. 15.

The federal agency was poised to approve a second vaccine, developed by Moderna, days later.

The bishops’ conferences in California and the U.S. issued statements affirming that it was acceptable for Catholics to take these vaccines.

“We want to reemphasize that the origins of the vaccines are morally acceptable from a Catholic perspective and their advancement fosters the common good,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement. “We also affirm that those who are most vulnerable must have a privileged place in their distribution and allocation.”

This is how Bishop Dolan sees it: “Catholics have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in need. And one way we can do that is by getting vaccinated.”

He urged everyone to continue to take basic steps to prevent the spread of the disease.

“The sooner we move to everyone wearing a mask and a good number of people getting the vaccine, the closer we are to being able to defeat the virus.”

Updated information about COVID-19 is available from San Diego County at sandiegocounty.gov/coronavirus/ ; from the state at covid19.ca.gov/ ; and from the federal government at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

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