The Archbishops of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches have sent a letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlining their "ethical concerns" about a potential coronavirus vaccine.
Australian Prime made the announcement last week that an agreement had been reached between Australia and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca, which is working on stage three trials of a vaccine with the University of Oxford.
After that announcement, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher raised concerns that a vaccine which uses foetal cells could "create an ethical quandary".
"Along with the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia, I have written to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, asking the government to pursue similar arrangements for alternate vaccines that do not raise the same ethical concerns, so that Australians will have a choice when it comes to vaccination. There are currently 167 vaccines being researched, many of which do not use foetal cells in their development. It is in the best interests of the community that vaccination is widely taken up and this deadly disease defeated, and this will better be achieved if the vaccines available do not create an ethical quandary," he posted.
Australia's Deputy Chief Health Officer addressed these concerns today, explaining that human cells are an important part of the development of any vaccine. "There are strong ethical regulations surrounding the use of any human cell, especially foetal human cells."
"This is a very professional, highly powered research unit at Oxford University, one of the world's leading universities. So I think we can have every faith that the way they have manufactured the vaccine, against the highest of ethical standards internationally," Dr Nick Coatsworth continued.
According to the World Health Organisation there are currently 167 COVID-19 vaccine candidates with nearly 30 of them undergoing human clinical trials.
Archbishop Davies told 9News he is not opposed to a vaccine, but not at the cost of failing to "protect the unborn".
"We need a vaccine for the coronavirus let me make that abundantly clear. But what we do not want to do is compromise our need for a vaccine with embryonic foetal tissue, and that's the problem," he said.
The intent of the letter which was signed by Anglican Diocese of Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, and Archbishop Makarios Griniezakis Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, was to "inform the government of the ethical dubiousness" of the Oxford vaccine.