Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 16:48 pm (CNA).
During a press conference on Friday, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called Catholics who are reluctant to receive COVID vaccines and oppose their distribution to “listen to what the Church has already said”, implying that all objections against COVID vaccines have already been addressed by official Church documents.
The July 2 press conference was intended to present a final statement crafted the day before during a meeting of the World Medical Association, the German Medical Association, and the Pontifical Academy for Life dedicated to “promote vaccine equity and confront vaccine hesitancy.”
The statement says that “while many higher-income countries had the resources to quickly sign bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies for promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, this left many developing countries at a disadvantage due to financial restrictions and limitations on production capacity.”
The document also says that reluctance to being vaccinated in disadvantaged communities “is rooted in historical inequities, breaches of trust in medical research, negative experiences with health care and suspicion about pharmaceutical companies’ behavior focused on profit.”
But it lashes out on “a more pernicious form of vaccine hesitancy … driven by unfounded and misleading claims and myths, including disinformation about side effects, which are amplified by social media and other means of enhanced communication.”
“Adding to this complexity,” the statement also says, “is the fact that vaccine hesitancy even exists in the medical community and some religious groups. Vaccine hesitancy and refusal can ultimately give rise to difficult ethical questions about the tension between individual freedom of choice and the common good.”
But during the Q&A part of the press conference, several journalists representing secular and Catholic media highly skeptical of COVID vaccines pushed back with statements followed by questions.
The correspondent from the Epoch Times opened the discussion, saying that “Your speakers discussed combating disinformation yesterday. Critics argue that only representing one side of ongoing medical research goes against scientific methods, (which) promotes propaganda and fosters reactionary disinformation. Why did yesterday’s round table only include experts on one side of this debate?”
She finally asked: “Would the Pontifical Academy for Life or and the WMA (World Medical Association) commit today to hosting a conference honoring the scientific method by inviting recognized experts representing all sides of this debate, including credible medical experts against the COVID vaccine?”
“In fact, the Pontifical Academy for Life, which has decided some time ago to discuss the issue of the vaccines, obviously wants to treat it in a comprehensive way, therefore bringing all the sides related to dealing with this issue,” Paglia responded, while adding that “this is not only a technical, scientific issue, is an ethical and social issue, which requires a new anthropological perspective. So we will continue to debate the issue of vaccines.”
He also said that in the upcoming conferences “we will take into account those who are critical to the vaccines as a tool” and recalled that the Pontifical Academy for Life “have never spoken about ‘obligation,’ but about ‘responsibility’.”
In their responses, both Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, Chair of Council of the WMA, and Dr. Ramin Parsa-Parsi, Head of Department for International Affairs of the German Medical Association, pushed back at the idea that experts who participated in the previous day roundtable belonged to “one side.” Both insisted that it consisted of independent scientists. But Parsi said that future meetings on COVID vaccines will include a larger number of scientists covering a “broader range of aspects.”
Later, the correspondent of St. Michael Media –parent company of Church Militant- listed noted scientists highly skeptical of the COVID vaccines who “are widely published in prestigious peer reviewed journals, and yet they are being completely ignored in this debate. So why can’t you include multiple voices and have a genuine scientific debate, because this is what science is all about.”
Parsi again dismissed the criticism, saying that “when it comes to vaccines, all the questions and all the inclarity [sic] have been tackled and I think there is no reason why we shouldn’t be confident that these vaccines are a blessing for our patients and for the people.”
Montgomery specifically discredited the papers mentioned by the journalist, and said that “as far as we know up to now, and of course, no one can say anything about long-term effects because we’ve only administered these techniques for six months now, but as far as we know, these techniques are very safe and produce much less side effects than for instance, the well-known vector therapies, which have a very high rate of side effects, especially at the first dose.”
The correspondent from The Remnant addressed a question to Archbishop Paglia: “you’ve spoken a lot today about the ethics of vaccines, but these ethics appear limited to primarily equitable distribution and overcoming vaccine hesitancy. You’ve made no mention to what genuinely concerns many Catholics; the fact that many of these vaccines are abortion tainted; the right to conscientious objection, and the fact that these vaccines have cost many lives in the United States, 6,100 people have died from them. Why are you not addressing these legitimate questions, particularly (to) Catholics, as you’re the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.”
“I have mentioned before the interventions both from the Dicastery for Integral Human Development of this past December, but also of the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which as you know, within the context of the Catholic Church, is the authority which responds with more clarity to all doubts and problems, and which has responded exactly to the objections you have presented,” Archbishop Paglia said.
“Now, if Catholics do not listen to that, well that is another matter.”
“We are very aware that the answer (to your question) has been provided. But since liberty exists, there are those who say ‘I don’t accept what the Pope says’, ‘or what the Congregation says’, ‘or what you say’. But from a standpoint of the Catholic doctrine, we are in the right,” he added.
“I would appeal to my Catholics brothers and sisters to listen to what has already been said (regarding the vaccines),” Archbishop Paglia concluded.