COVID-19 vaccines and abortion: Should people be allowed a choice of vaccine?
UK doctors recently took to the media to urge people not to request a choice of COVID-19 vaccine. “The idea of choice seems so wrong, when there is such an acute shortage of vaccines across the world”, states one BBC article.
Nevertheless, for some people, certain vaccines offered by the NHS pose a real ethical concern. The AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, both approved for use in the UK, were developed using foetal cell-lines obtained in abortions likely dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Those opposed to abortion may consider receiving such a vaccine morally objectionable.
A similar foetal cell-line was used in one test of the Pfizer vaccine, but crucially not in the vaccine production itself. To avoid ethical dilemmas, therefore, the ability for some to receive the Pfizer vaccine over AstraZeneca or Moderna seems a desirable solution.
However, this raises several questions:
Can exceptions be made in public policy for those with serious ethical concerns?
Are such concerns a matter of conscience?
In a time of scarcity and concern over allocation, can reasonable accommodation be made for liberty of choice?
In this event Dr Alberto Giubilini (Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics) and Prof David A. Jones (Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre) continue to explore their own and each other's views on the topic of COVID-19 vaccines and abortion, looking for common ground.
The event was chaired by Dr Katrien Devolder, the author of the Thinking Out Loud podcast series which focuses on pandemic ethics.
Prof. David Albert Jones is Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford, Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University, Professor of Bioethics at St Mary's University, Twickenham, Vice-Chair of the Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee, and an examiner for the Society of Apothecaries Diploma in the Philosophy of Medicine. In 2017 he was awarded the Paul Ramsey Award for Excellence in Bioethics.
Alberto Giubilini is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. He has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Milan, and prior to joining the Uehiro Centre he worked in Australia at Monash University, University of Melbourne and Charles Sturt University. He has published on different topics in bioethics and philosophy, including the ethics of vaccination, procreative choices, end of life decisions, organ donations, conscientious objection in healthcare, the concept of conscience, human enhancement, and the role of intuitions and of moral disgust in ethical arguments. He has published a book on The Ethics of Vaccination (Palgrave MacMillan 2019) and one in Italian on the ethics of end of life decisions (Morals in the Time of Bioethics, Le Lettere 2011), and he co-edited a book on The Ethics of Human Enhancement (Oxford University Press 2016).