The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima stood in a courtyard at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic on Thursday — a year after COVID-19’s arrival in Yakima County was confirmed — and prayed for his congregation as members joined virtually.
He prayed for protection of the congregation against the virus, courage for each member to get a COVID-19 vaccine, safety for those administering and transporting them, and inspiration for medical researchers to “provide new cures that respect the life of the unborn.”
Then, Bishop Joseph Tyson rolled up his sleeve and received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine — a single-dose vaccination that has received pushback from some because of its development.
“There are many opinions around the vaccine,” Tyson said in Spanish during comments after his prayer. “But it’s acceptable. It’s permissible to receive the vaccine, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. My message is very simple: It’s not a sin.”
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The local Hispanic or Latino community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, said both Tyson and Carlos Olivares, CEO of the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic — making it important for this community in particular to get vaccinated against the illness.
Of the 26,717 cases of COVID-19 in Yakima County reported as of Feb. 26, 45.3% were among Hispanic or Latino community members, according to the Yakima Health District.
Members of the Catholic Church have expressed uncertainty about whether it was moral to get vaccinated against COVID-19, since stems cells from aborted fetuses were used in testing and developing some of the vaccines, said Tyson.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine that he received, for example, used these stem cells in the development of the vaccine itself.
While he said he couldn’t condone or ignore this, he said the good outweighed the bad, in this case. Tyson urged community members to get whichever vaccine is available to them as soon as they are eligible. He also called on community members to request that pharmaceutical companies create future treatments and cures using what he called “clean stem cells.”
He said the use of aborted fetus stem cells in medical treatment development or testing was more common than most people realized — including many common over-the-counter medications. Rather than stop using these, he said this could be an opportunity to call on change from the medical industry moving forward.