WESTMINSTER, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishops are urging Catholics to receive Britain's newly approved COVID-19 vaccine despite the British Medical Journal (BMJ) expressing major concerns about dubious vaccine trials and the government's own advice against pregnant women having the jab.
In a statement published Thursday, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) endorses the COVID-19 vaccine as "an important breakthrough in protecting others as well as oneself from the virus."
On Wednesday, Britain authorized the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for emergency use.
The CBCEW statement permits Catholics to receive vaccines sourced from aborted fetal tissue "provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action."
The bishops' statement fails to mention that Pfizer and BioNTech have run tests on HEK293 aborted fetal cell lines and identify only the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as "developed from cell lines originating from the cells of an aborted fetus in 1983."
Bishop Richard Moth, chair for the CBCEW Department of Social Justice, argues in the statement that a "vaccine is the most effective way" to "protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death."
However, BMJ research expressly challenges Moth's claims, pointing out that "none of the trials currently underway are designed to detect a reduction in any serious outcome such as hospital admissions, use of intensive care or deaths."
"Nor are the vaccines being studied to determine whether they can interrupt transmission of the virus," writes Dr. Peter Doshi, BMJ associate editor and associate professor of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
"The truth is that the science remains far from clear cut, even for influenza vaccines that have been used for decades," Doshi warns. "History shows many examples of serious adverse events from vaccines brought to market in periods of enormous pressure and expectation."
According to Doshi, "the results [of vaccination] reflect a time point relatively soon after vaccination, and we know nothing about vaccine performance at 3, 6 or 12 months, so we cannot compare these efficacy numbers against other vaccines like influenza vaccines [which are judged over a season]."
"It's hard to avoid the impression that sponsors are claiming victory and wrapping up their trials and the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now be under enormous pressure to rapidly authorize the vaccines," the researcher laments.
The prestigious scientific journal Nature confirmed that the U.K. approval is based on data from only 170 infections and "none has demonstrated that it prevents infection altogether, or reduces the spread of disease in a population."
Thus, "those who are vaccinated could remain susceptible to asymptomatic infection and could transmit that infection to others who remain vulnerable," observes Nature, quoting Leeds University virologist Stephen Griffin: "In the worst-case scenario, you have people walking around feeling fine, but shedding virus everywhere."
Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) announced Wednesday: "Women should be advised not to come forward for vaccination if they may be pregnant or are planning a pregnancy within three months of the first dose."
Since "there are very limited data on vaccination in adolescents, with no data on vaccination in younger children, at this time," the JCVI advised "that only those children at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes, such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities that require residential care, should be offered vaccination."
The CBCEW statement does not adequately inform Catholics on the potential dangers of the vaccine even though, according to anthropologist Karen Harradine, "forcing people to have a rushed and inadequately tested vaccine is a future health crisis in the making."
As per European Union law, vaccine manufacturers will have legal immunity against damage claims from any side effects.
The bishops advise Catholics to educate their "conscience on this matter and decide what to do," noting that "Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves."
"In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection," the CBCEW concludes.