Our Lady of the Lake, the largest hospital network in the Baton Rouge area and part of a Catholic health system, will provide the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine once the hospital group receives it, according to a spokesperson.
The third coronavirus vaccine approved by federal officials for use in the United States has been a source of controversy among local Catholic leaders this week. The Most Rev. Michael Duca, bishop of the Baton Rouge Diocese, told his parishioners the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a valid choice, while the New Orleans Archdiocese said the vaccine is "morally compromised."
The three authorized vaccines and other COVID-19 vaccines still in development use cell lines from the tissue of aborted fetuses in the 1970s or 1980s at some point in their development, production or both, according to published scientific journal accounts. But the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has relied more heavily on the cell lines, raising more serious ethical concerns for church leaders.
"Because of the common good associated with vaccine use and the serious health danger of COVID-19, the Catholic Church has permitted the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while advocating for an end to this method of vaccine development and manufacturing," said Grace Weber, the health system spokeswoman.
Louisiana was expected to receive almost 38,000 doses of the one-shot J&J vaccine this week for distribution through hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.
Louisiana Catholics may grapple not with the issue of taking a COVID-19 vaccination, but with which vaccination to take.
OLOL is part of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, a nonprofit Catholic health system. Franciscan Missionaries is already distributing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Weber said. Duca's support for the J&J vaccine, even limited, helps, she said.
"He understands the challenges to the acquisition and equitable distribution of all three vaccines and supports our administration as circumstances require in order to protect the common good," Weber said.
On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is Catholic and spoke to New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond on Sunday, explained that he saw the combined statements of Duca and Aymond as not prohibiting Catholics from receiving the J&J vaccine.
“You do have to weigh this with the common good of ending a pandemic,” Edwards said. “The fastest way to do this is deploy all the vaccines and have the uptake of the vaccines be as great as possible.” State health officials have warned against warned against trying to pick one vaccine over another, instead urging everyone to receive a shot as soon as they are eligible.