"I am heartened by the unity and kindness that is being demonstrated during this pandemic," Jefferies told CNA.
"I think the response by the archdiocese is an affirmative and practical way to address the critical need in our society to develop a vaccine...I am sincerely humbled by the support we have received from the archdiocese and from other groups and individuals."
So far, Jefferies' lab has received grants from the government-funded Michael Smith Health Research Foundation and the Sullivan Urology Foundation affiliated with the University of British Columbia, as well as a number of private donations.
There are at least 1,000 clinical trials currently taking place around the world to test potential COVID-19 vaccines.
A group of pro-life leaders in a letter to the Trump administration earlier this month reiterated that development of a COVID-19 vaccine should avoid unethical links to abortion.
"No American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience," reads the April 17 letter to Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines," it continued.
The letter's signers include Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities; the heads of three other bishops' conference committees; and leaders of many other Catholic and non-Catholic groups.
The Pontifical Academy for Life has noted that Catholics have an obligation to use ethically-sourced vaccines when available, and have an obligation to speak up and request the development of new cell lines that are not derived from aborted fetuses.
The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis personae strongly criticized aborted fetal tissue research. However, as regards common vaccines, such as those for chicken pox and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), that may be derived from cell lines of aborted babies, the Vatican said they could be used by parents for "grave reasons" such as danger to their children's health.
In a 2017 document on vaccines, the academy noted a "moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others… especially the safety of more vulnerable subjects such as pregnant women and those affected by immunodeficiency who cannot be vaccinated against these diseases."
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