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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican is to administer to residents, employees and their families the abortion-tainted COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Viagra-maker Pfizer — a pharmaceutical giant scarred by the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind.
The Holy See's choice of the Pfizer jab is at variance with Pope Francis' statements about profiting from the pandemic. Unlike other vaccine makers, who pledged not to profit from the vaccine, Pfizer sees the serum as a business opportunity worth $13 billion.
Arcangeli told Vatican News that Holy See authorities had "decided to start with the vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the first to be introduced in clinical use, which has been shown to be 95% effective."
"Currently, this vaccine is the only one for which approval by the European and American health authorities is underway. As is well known, the vaccination campaign with this product has already begun in England," said Arcangeli, who was appointed as director in August.
The Vatican did not address specific ethical concerns raised by the abortion-compromised Pfizer-BioNTech, though Arcangeli conceded that "a wide debate has opened in recent months on the COVID-19 vaccine, including "many skepticisms and fears."
On Monday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a statement "on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines" clarifying that "vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary."
"When ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available," it declared, "it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process" since "the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion."
The 2005 Pontifical Academy for Life document "Moral reflections about vaccines prepared from cells of aborted human fetuses" allows use of abortion-tainted vaccines, arguing that cell lines used "are very distant from the original abortions and no longer imply that bond of moral cooperation indispensable for an ethically negative evaluation of their use."
However, in comments to Church Militant, Dave Brennan, director of Brephos and Center for Bio-Ethical Reform UK, insisted that "the argument that HEK-293 represents nothing more than a distant relationship with a single act of evil decades ago, with no bearing on what happens today or tomorrow, is flawed."
Many of us would balk at accepting a cell line from the kidney of a Holocaust victim, even though that injustice finished long ago and today we all with one voice condemn it, so there would be no danger that use of such material today would directly encourage the further exploitation or torture of Jews.
But precisely the same injustice that produced the HEK-293 cell line — the legalized slaughter of healthy unborn children and the harvesting of their tissue without consent — persists today. This injustice continues. How much more should we reject this cell line?
Lamenting the mainstream consensus endorsing the mass slaughter of healthy unborn babies and the plunder of their organs, Brennan warned: "To embrace the use of a cell line that emerged from this culture is to reinforce the message that such practice is tolerable."
Ethicists who endorse the Pfizer vaccine argue that it was not developed using tissue from an aborted child but used the HEK-293 (human embryo kidney) cell line from a 1972 abortion in confirmatory testing, i.e., to "confirm that messenger RNA was properly coding for the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus."
The Pfizer vaccine injects messenger RNA (mRNA) into muscle cells, where they begin to manufacture and release the same spike proteins found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to elicit an immune response within the subject.
The Christian Medical Association (CMA) posits a hierarchy of ethical concerns using aborted fetal cells: (a) in the initial design of the vaccine, (b) the confirmatory testing of the vaccine and (c) the ongoing production of the vaccine, with the latter posing the greatest ethical barrier.
Vaccines made by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson employ abortion-related cell lines in all three stages—design, confirmation and production, observes CMA.
Pfizer's refusal to accept U.S. government research funding and invest $2 billion from its coffers to develop the vaccine with Germany's BioNTech has also given rise to the company's profit-making motives.
The United States' Pfizer and German BioNTech could rake in nearly $13 billion in global sales from their COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 and will split the take evenly, investment bank Morgan Stanley analysts have predicted.
Pfizer, one of the most expensive of the vaccines, will supply 100 million doses to the U.S. at the rate of $39 for a two-shot course, or $19.50 per dose, with the option to supply another 500m doses under new terms.
The German government, however, has subsidized BioNTech to the tune of €375 million ($445 million). The European Investment Bank has also granted the Mainz-based pharma a €100 million loan.
"For the bigger corporations, many of which have had their reputations tarnished by scandals involving issues such as drug pricing and unethical marketing, COVID-19 may also offer a shot at redemption," the Financial Times reported.
In 2009, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion in what was then the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice, arising from the illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products.
In 1996, Pfizer's unapproved clinical trials on children with meningitis in Nigeria led to the deaths of 11 children. Dozens more were left disabled.
According to DrugWatch, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer over the last decade.
"Half of the subjects, especially young people, experience headaches, fever and chills, which however, get better in 24 hours," Professor Forni said in an interview with La Stampa, although patients with allergies may suffer anaphylactic shock.
The U.K. government, which rolled out the vaccine Dec. 8, has granted Pfizer legal indemnity protecting it from being sued.
Pfizer refused to explain why the company needed an indemnity. "We're not actually disclosing any of the details around any of the aspects of that agreement and specifically around the liability clauses," Ben Osborn, U.K. managing director told media.
Yannis Natsis, who sits as an elected member in charge of patient representation on the board of the European Medicines Agency, said that an exemption from civil liability would create "a dangerous precedent" that could have ramifications beyond the pandemic.
Ten days after the United Kingdom began administering the Pfizer vaccine, an official study reported 3,150 people were unable to perform normal daily activities, unable to work or required care from a doctor or health care professional after receiving the first dose of the vaccine.