Northern Ireland news

DUP urges people to have Covid vaccine after councillor wrongly claims it 'contains tissue from aborted babies'

"The Pfizer vaccine is a synthetic vaccine made by chemistry rather than biology, so it's absolutely the case that it's not derived from any cells, not to mention any cells originally derived from foetuses"

The DUP has urged people to take the Covid-19 vaccine after a party councillor said he would refuse the jab because it "contains stem cells and tissue from aborted babies".

Comments made by Mid and East Antrim councillor John Carson were rubbished by the Department of Health who said the "Pfizer vaccine does not contain any human tissue".

Queen's University Belfast virologist, Professor Ultan Power said that claims of human tissue in the vaccine are "gross misinformation".

"The Pfizer vaccine is a synthetic vaccine made by chemistry rather than biology, so it's absolutely the case that it's not derived from any cells, not to mention any cells originally derived from foetuses," he told the BBC.

He said the vaccine was "critical" in tackling the pandemic.

A DUP spokesman also urged people to take the vaccine.

"Everyone who is recommended to take the Covid-19 vaccine should do so in order to protect themselves and others in our community," he said.

When asked on Facebook whether he would take the coronavirus vaccine, Mr Carson replied: "Definitely no!!!"

He later explained: "It contains stem cells and tissue from aborted babies."

When another Facebook user said he was incorrect, Mr Carson replied: "I beg to differ."

Read more: Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The Pfizer vaccine does not contain any human tissue.

"It should be remembered that vaccines have saved millions of lives worldwide. We need widespread take-up of the Covid-19 vaccine in NI to protect the population, particularly older and vulnerable citizens.

"Widespread take-up will also help us move towards the easing of restrictions in society."

In a statement on Wednesday, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said Catholics could accept vaccines using stem cells derived from aborted foetuses in medical research if a more “ethically acceptable” alternative is not available.

“Questions have arisen that human foetal cell-lines, which have their origins in abortions carried out in the past, are used in the development and production of some of the vaccines for Covid-19,” the statement said.

“If a more ethically acceptable alternative is not readily available to them, it is morally permissible for Catholics to accept a vaccine which involves the use of foetal cell-lines, especially if the potential risk to life or health is significant, as in the case of a pandemic."

The bishops said that refusal to accept a vaccine could contribute to “significant loss of life in the community”.

The church reaffirmed its “consistent teaching ... that abortion is always gravely immoral”.

“The church has always made a distinction, however, between formal (deliberate) involvement in an immoral act and material involvement, which may be incidental and remote,” it said.

“The decision of those who decide to accept vaccines which have had some link with foetal cell-lines in the past does not imply any consent on their part to abortion.”

AstraZeneca has said its vaccine uses a cell strain taken from a female foetus aborted in the 1970s. However, the company said the cells are used to propagate the virus for the vaccine but these cells do not make it into the final jab.

Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long criticised Mr Carson's remarks.

She tweeted: "The vaccine does not contain any DNA from aborted foetuses.

"It's time elected reps educated themselves as to the science before spreading such foolish and dangerous misinformation."

Read more: Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked

Professor Ultan Power

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