Johnson & Johnson vaccine causing moral concerns, Roanoke-area residents weigh in


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is making its way to Roanoke, but it’s already facing backlash nationwide.

A growing number of leaders in the Catholic Church are calling the vaccine “morally compromised.”

Tom Dorss, a Roanoke resident, agrees.

“I don’t see any reason why they should be using [aborted] fetal tissue in any of the production,” said Dorss.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans and St. Louis, as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, claim the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is made from ingredients harvested from aborted fetuses.

Although fetal cells have been used in a variety of medical tests to create vaccines and drugs, Johnson & Johnson says there is no fetal tissue in its vaccine.

Instead, the cells used to make the vaccine are copies of fetal cells experimented upon decades ago – not the original fetal cells.

“It’s actually a very common technique that’s used, particularly in these types of vaccines. It’s tissue that was derived in 1985, nothing new,” said Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana State Health Department.

Still, the Roman Catholic groups opposing the vaccine are urging followers to choose Pfizer or Moderna’s shots, if given the option. They say Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine should only be taken if no other “ethical” options are available.

“Once you normalize that, then it emboldens the pharmaceuticals to just use it,” Dorss said.

Cary Leeth, a Vinton resident, says it’s just another excuse not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“People are just so sensitive. They’re just looking for anything to find some fault,” said Leeth.

Roanoke resident Clifford Scholtz received his second Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, March 3. While he understands people’s concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he says it’s an opportunity that needs to be taken.

“It’s the unknown of things, you know. That’s with any of them,” Scholtz said. “They feel like it’s experimental, but you know, you should take it, pray, and go on.”

Health officials note many people don’t have the luxury to choosing which brand of vaccine.

“The best vaccine is the one that’s available to you,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCAHD) and Carilion Clinic will hold an 8,000-dose COVID-19 clinic on Saturday, March 6 and Sunday, March 7 at the Berglund Center.

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