Editor’s Note: The following is an op-ed submitted to BeaverCountian.com by PA State Representative Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie County), who serves as chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee. Bizzarro’s thoughts come in reaction to a statement issued by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh discouraging Catholics from getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. We are publishing his opinions in full as written.
Being pro-life means getting a vaccine as soon as you can and not worrying about the brand.
This week we saw one of the most careless, irresponsible and anti-science statements made since the COVID-19 crisis began over a year ago – a statement that will certainly lead to more infections, more hospitalizations and more Americans dead.
No, I’m not talking about Texas Governor Greg Abbott telling people to stop wearing masks even as cases in his state spike and as every single coronavirus variant known to medical science rages in Houston.
I’m talking about the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh joining with the Catholic Conference of Bishops to tell Catholics to avoid the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine. A literal medical miracle crafted by hands guided with divine providence that is 85 percent effective against preventing severe illness in cases of COVID-19 infection, and 100 percent effective in preventing death in cases of COVID-19 infection.
I am a life-long Catholic. I am also a childhood cancer survivor; a product of science and medical miracles. Many doctors wrote me off and told my parents they could do nothing more than keep me comfortable until I died. By the grace of God, clinical trials, modern medicine, and nothing short of a miracle—I am able to serve this commonwealth today. As a life-long Catholic, I cannot fathom how anyone can call themselves truly “pro-life” and tell a worried senior citizen or a middle-aged teacher in a Catholic school to say “no” to a vaccine that will literally defend their gift of life and grant them the years allotted them by their maker?
This has been a hard year. More than a half-million American lives lost. Millions of families changed forever. There is not a single person reading this who doesn’t at least know someone who contracted the virus. Hopefully they were lucky enough to defeat the infection, but now live with the fear of reinfection, or of someday learning the virus did permanent damage yet unknown. Perhaps they were not lucky, and their passing is a hole left in so many lives.
While President Trump started Warp Speed and we’re all grateful for that, President Biden has truly led the fight and we’re seeing the might of American industry and innovation finally brought to bear on this microscopic enemy and the news every day gets better of more and more vaccines on the way to our health care providers and into the arms of the people, we are not out of the woods yet. Even as the deadline to make and deliver hundreds of millions of doses is moved up and up we have work to do. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we dare not veer from the path.
We need to get as many people vaccinated as fast as we can to stay ahead of the variants and to get us to the 80 percent of the population protected to truly deliver us herd immunity. That means getting the first shot available to you, and don’t worry if it’s Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. All three used stem cells during the testing process, by the way.
In 2015 Catholic Bishops in Kenya demanded a boycott of the polio vaccine because of concerns the vaccine contained estrogen. As a result more than four times as many Catholic children in Africa missed their polio shots compared to non-Catholic children. Parental refusal among Catholics doubled.
For the polio vaccine. Created in Pittsburgh. Another medical miracle crafted with divine providence that saved the world.
Get your vaccine. If you’re concerned about the Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese being angry, listen to the St. Louis diocese who said Catholics can get that vaccine “in good conscience if no other alternative is available.” If you’re still worried, don’t be. The Vatican disagrees and is even mandating all Vatican employees must get a vaccine or risk being fired. Pope Francis is correctly more worried about getting as much vaccine to people in need as fast as possible than anything else.
The life you save just might be your own.
– Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, Chairman House Democratic Policy Committee