Religion and Vaccines

Updated March 4, 2021

The practices and beliefs of various religious groups can seemingly be in conflict with some of the components of some vaccines. The information below touches on some of these topics and provides links to articles and webpages expanding on these issues.

Porcine-derived components

Some vaccines contain components with porcine origins. Religions that oppose the use of pork products may have objections. Information and links addressing these concerns are below.

Addressing Concerns for Muslims:

  • “The Gelatin formed as a result of the transformation of the bones, skin and tendons of a judicially impure animal is pure, and it is judicially permissible to eat it.” 1995 decision by the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences (in English and Arabic) [link to complete text]

Addressing Concerns for Jews:

  • Drugs of Porcine origin are derived from the Pancreas which, as extracted, is not edible in the food sense [link to complete text – see page 17]
  • Excipients (non-active ingredients in vaccines) [link to complete text – see page 20]
    • Gelatin: if no alternative is available, consumption of gelatin is permitted because it is being consumed in a non-edible form
    • Lactose: this is also an inedible form

Aborted Fetuses

Two cell lines currently used in vaccines are derived from selective abortions performed overseas in the 1960s; WI-38 from Germany in 1961 and MRC-5 from UK in 1966. Many excellent and thoughtful papers have been written on the ethics and religious aspects arising from use of these human cell lines (see links below).

Addressing Concerns for Catholics:

  • Catholic US bishops approve use of COVID-19 vaccines with ‘remote connection’ to abortion [link to complete text]
  • “…as regards the vaccines [containing WI-38 or MRC-5] without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women.” 2005 Official Document, Moral Reflections on Vaccines Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses [link to complete text]
  • “danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.” 2008 Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions [link to complete text – near the end of section 35]

Addressing Concerns for Christians:

  • Vaccination information and Recommendations: The safety and advisability of vaccinating our children has become a hot topic, and one of great importance. This handout was prepared to present reliable information, answer questions, provide encouragement, and perhaps spark more Christian enthusiasm for medical science drawn from history. [link to complete text]

Related Articles

  • Christian Medical & Dental Associations. Immunization and Potential for Moral Complicity with Evil. 2004 [link]
  • Furton EJ. Vaccines Originating in Abortion. Ethics & Medics 1999;24(3):3-4. [link]
  • Grabenstein JD. Moral considerations with certain viral vaccines. Christ Pharm 1999;2(2): 3–6. [no longer available online]
  • Grabenstein JD. What the world’s religions teach, applied to vaccines and immune globulins. Vaccine 2013;31(16):2011-23. [abstract article (may require a password)]
  • Grabenstein JD. Where Medicine and Religion Intersect. Ann Pharmacother 2003;37:1338-9. [link]
  • Mynors G, Ghalamkari H, Beaumont S, Powell S, McGee P. Drugs of porcine origin and their clinical alternatives: an introductory guide 2004. National Prescribing Centre. [link (may require a password)]
  • Pacholczyk T. The Morality of Vaccinating Our Children. 2005. National Catholic Bioethical Center. [link]
  • Rudd G. Is Vaccination Complicit with Abortion? Ann Pharmacother 2003;37:1340-1. [link (may require a password)]
  • Wikipedia. Vaccination and Religion. [link]
  • Zimmerman RK. Ethical analyses of vaccines grown in human cell strains derived from abortion: arguments and Internet search. Vaccine 2004;22(31-32):4238-44. [abstract article (may require a password)]