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The National Catholic Bioethics Center
Message on the Shingles Vaccine from Greg Schleppenbach, Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities
July 2018
© 2020 by The National Catholic Bioethics Center

TO: Diocesan Respect Life Directors, State Catholic Conference Directors
FROM: Greg Schleppenbach, Associate Director

DATE: July 11, 2018

SUBJECT: Ethical Shingles Vaccine Update

Dear Director:

The only vaccines readily available in the United States for some contagious diseases (e.g., rubella and Hepatitis A) have been manufactured using fetal tissue from induced abortions. This creates a problem of conscience for some Catholic parents.

As recommended by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005, a long-term solution lies in working to ensure that future vaccines and other medicines are not based on cooperation with practices that demean human life. This applies to products based on abortion, as well as to projected therapies from destruction of human embryos for their stem cells.

The FDA recently approved a new shingles vaccine that does not use aborted fetal cell lines, and has given it a preferential recommendation over the only other available, and morally problematic, shingles vaccine on the market. A joint letter from our colleagues at the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) and the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) provides more detail and some helpful suggestions. It is our hope that, with some encouragement, the manufacturer of this new vaccine may consider creating other morally acceptable vaccines.

Cardinal Dolan, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Vigneron, Chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, recently wrote to all bishops sharing this same news, and encouraging them to share this information with diocesan leaders, and especially with Catholic health care leaders. Bishops were provided with the enclosed template letters to assist in this effort:

In addition to these template letters, we are including a template thank-you letter to GSK that could be used by any Catholic individual/family.

We encourage you to ask your bishop if he needs any assistance in spreading the word with your appropriate diocesan and health care leaders and with Catholics in general. In any case, please coordinate any efforts with your bishop.

Any encouragement to create additional morally acceptable products will certainly be strengthened if we can show a market demand for such alternatives.

Thank you for spreading this good news, and for sharing your own gratitude with the manufacturer. We welcome these opportunities where we can illustrate that, contrary to popular opinion, the Church is not opposed to scientific advancement.


Sincerely in Christ,

Greg Schleppenbach

Associate Director

Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops