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Sydney Archbishop expresses ethical doubts about Oxford Covid vaccine

28 August 2020


Surfers at Bondi beach, Sydney in April. The country’s tourism industry lost about AU$5.8 billion from January to March

Surfers at Bondi beach, Sydney in April. The country’s tourism industry lost about AU$5.8 billion from January to March

THE Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has said that he would “have to think seriously” about whether to accept vaccination with the potential Covid-19 vaccine that is being developed in Oxford because it used cell lines from an aborted foetus. The use of foetal tissue was “reprehensible”, he told a radio interviewer.

The Australian government has signed a letter of intent with the University of Oxford and the developer AstraZeneca to buy 25 million doses of the vaccine if the trials are successful.

Dr Davies is a co-signatory of a letter to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, outlining ethical concerns about the vaccine; the other signatories are the RC Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Anthony Fisher; and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia, the Most Revd Makarios Griniezakis. Dr Fisher, a bioethicist, has said, however, that it would not be unethical to use the vaccine if it were the only option available, although he would be “deeply troubled” by it.

Dr Davies said that he had not been aware until this week that cell lines from aborted foetuses had been used for decades in commonly used vaccines and medicines. Had he known earlier, he would have “spoken up”, he said.

The Prime Minister has not yet responded to the letter, but a spokesman said that he respected the views of religious communities. He hoped that a range of vaccines would be available, some of which, including the one being developed at the University of Queensland, did not use the cell lines.

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