In the great rush — especially before the U.S. election — for a covid vaccine, major questions remain unanswered; they remain because they can’t yet be answered.
Most pressing: will the vaccine, when it arrives — perhaps as early as October or November — be derived in some way from fetal stemlines: cells cultured in laboratories that originated from tissue taken during abortions? Next question: will it be safe?
Bishops have warned that Catholics should not accept such vaccinations. There is a moral and perhaps spiritual onus that comes with them. Others argue that if vaccines serve the greater good — save many lives — their origin has to be ignored. The Vatican approves of Catholics receiving vaccines manufactured using human fetal cells only in the absence of alternatives.
But it is hard to see how anyone could ignore inserting a concoction into their veins that includes, even in tiny part, a heinous lineage.
“It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience,” members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and twenty other religious, medical, and political organizations that oppose abortion wrote to Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in April. “Thankfully, [there are COVID-19] vaccines [that] utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.”
Will the government choose those? The most moral ones? Or the one most quickly deemed scientifically effective, even if it has such cells? Said another way: Will the rush to get out a coronavirus vaccine compromise Christians (and everyone, for that matter)?
Noted the prestigious journal Science, “Cells derived from elective abortions have been used since the 1960s to manufacture vaccines, including current vaccines against rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and shingles. They have also been used to make approved drugs against diseases including hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis, and cystic fibrosis. Now, research groups around the world are working to develop more than 130 candidate vaccines against COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization; 10 had entered human trials as of 2 June.
“At least five of the candidate COVID-19 vaccines use one of two human fetal cell lines: HEK-293, a kidney cell line widely used in research and industry that comes from a fetus aborted in about 1972; and PER.C6, a proprietary cell line owned by Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, developed from retinal cells from an 18-week-old fetus aborted in 1985. Both cell lines were developed in the lab of molecular biologist Alex van der Eb at Leiden University. Two of the five vaccines have entered human trials.”
They are used because they are very efficient and carry less viral and bacterial contamination than alternatives. Here are the companies using abortion cells for potential vaccines:
–CanSino Biologics, Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology
–University of Oxford/AstraZeneca
–Janssen Research & Development USA (Johnson & Johnson)
–University of Pittsburgh
AstraZeneca from Oxford is virtually always mentioned as a leading candidate.
So is CanSino. And so is Janssen (a so-called “warp speed” candidate).
Pfizer, which is one of the two leading candidates in the U.S., says it “recognizes that human embryonic stem cells may provide even greater potential due to their increased ability for self-renewal and capacity to form a wide variety of cells and tissues.” Moderna joins Pfizer as a top White House candidate.
“Suspicions about the vaccine were raised after checking Moderna’s patents and in particular, the use of the Spike (S) protein,” notes a website. “The idea behind using this Spike protein in a vaccine with messenger RNA (mRNA) is to teach the patient’s immune system to produce its own protein antibodies to block and destroy the virus so the person will not become infected. However, as detailed in several science publications, Spike protein is produced using HEK 293 aborted fetal cells.”
It’s hard to keep track of the race. There are at least 170 research teams involved globally. No one has yet said if abortion cells were used in the one Russia claims to have developed (but not yet adequately tested). Germany’s CureVac is also in it, with the backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Here’s a list of the frontrunners. AstraZeneca, which seems to receive a lion’s share of publicity, already has begun trials. Noted one ethical assessment by the Charlotte Lozier Institute:
“The use of cells from electively aborted fetuses for vaccine production makes these five COVID-19 vaccine programs potentially controversial and could reduce willingness of some to use the vaccine. While some may see no ethical problem, for many a straight line can be drawn from the ending of a human life in an abortion to a vaccine or drug created using cells derived from the harvesting of the fetal tissue. Even if the cells have been propagated for years in the laboratory far removed from the abortion, that connection line remains.
“Thus, use of such cells for vaccine production raises problems of conscience for anyone who might be offered that vaccine and is aware of its lineage. Moreover, the possibility of conscientious objection by those to whom a vaccine is offered creates ethical demands on the policymakers, healthcare officials, scientists, vaccine creators and funders, whether or not they themselves have an ethical concern, because of the question of access to the vaccine by the entire citizenry in good conscience. This is especially true if alternative production methods and vaccines are possible for which there is no ethical question.”
Among those seeking an ethical vaccine is the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.
Even if we have to wait — even if it takes until next year — a mass vaccination program must be an ethical and safe one.
There are those who are actively talking — including the health commissioner of Virginia — of mandating vaccination. Governments, as a general principle, have the authority to force vaccinations when the public health requires it, ethicists (and certainly humanists) argue. This opens another big can of worms.
“In principle, when there’s a public health emergency, and there’s reason to believe that a vaccine is crucial to overcoming that emergency, the government does have the authority to mandate vaccination,” Dr. Melissa Moschella, a philosophy and ethics professor at The Catholic University of America, told the Catholic News Agency. “That’s been done in the past, and at times that can be a reasonable and legitimate thing to do.”
But there is the potential here for a major and legitimate uproar. For sure, it should not be forced.
Add to this the health questions vaccines always raise, with indications that past concoctions, especially those using mercury (thimerosal) as an ingredient (adjuvant), have caused severe effects, particularly in the susceptible young, and especially by way of autism. (Note the number of kids these days who have autism or “attention-deficit” syndrome.) Adjuvants like thimerosal enhance the power of immunization and lessen that cost.
But at what health cost?
Aluminum hydroxide (alum) is the most commonly used agent as an adjuvant in corona vaccine candidates.
What does that do, when pumped into human bloodstreams?
Meanwhile, one of the firms that used mercury in other vaccines, Eli Lilly, is spearheading covid drug therapies. Another firm that used thimerosal, Merck, is in the thick of covid vaccine research.
Back to the aborted-stem-cell issue:
Notes Science: “The Trump administration has restricted the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions in biomedical research. One year ago, it adopted a policy that forbids researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from using fetal tissue from elective abortions in their studies. And it imposed an extra layer of review on non-NIH scientists seeking agency funding to do research using such tissue. But the policy did not stop either group from using decades-old fetal cell lines like HEK-293 and PER.C6.”
While many COVID-19 vaccines are being developed with fetal cell lines, a number of promising vaccine candidates, such as those being developed by Novavax, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Sinovac, are using ethically-derived cell lines. Here’s what the U.S. bishops have said. U.K.-based GSK and France-based Sanofi are the world’s #1 and #3 largest vaccine producers respectively by total revenue in 2017 according to FiercePharma. That’s a hopeful sign.
As stated, although alternative ethically-derived cell lines exist for vaccine development, pharmaceutical companies often opt to use fetal cell lines because the characteristics of fetal cell lines are well known and because they do not contain significant contaminating viruses or bacteria that are often found in cells derived from animals. In the mid-20th century the polio vaccine was once manufactured using primary cell cultures harvested from the kidneys of monkeys — vaccines later discovered to have been contaminated with a common monkey virus known as Simian Virus 40 (SV40) — which some believe has caused brain cancers in Americans who are now in their sixties and seventies. Since then, vaccine developers have relied more heavily on cell lines rather than cultures taken from live animals.
[From Children of God for Life:
In light of the fact that the US just signed a $450 million dollar contract with Johnson & Johnson to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, we are asking the public to contact President Trump who has denied federal funding for aborted fetal research.
Contact form: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
Or to voice your concerns to Johnson and Johnson contact:
Johnson & Johnson
Alex Gorsky, CEO
One Johnson & Johnson Plaza
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08933
On March 25th, the organization exposed Moderna’s use of the aborted fetal cell line HEK 293 and the morally produced version by Sanofi Pasteur. This time it’s Janssen Pharmaceutical, owned by Johnson and Johnson, that is using their PER C6 Ad5 technology, derived from an aborted baby’s retinal tissue. Dr. Alex van der Eb revealed the information on this abortion at FDA hearings in 2001:
“So I isolated retina from a fetus, from a healthy fetus as far as could be seen, of 18 weeks old. There was nothing special with a family history or the pregnancy was completely normal up to the 18 weeks, and it turned out to be a socially indicated abortus – abortus provocatus, and that was simply because the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus… what was written down was unknown father, and that was, in fact, the reason why the abortion was requested.”
Adding insult to injury, Dr. van der Eb went on to admit: “PER C6 was made just for pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus vectors… And then pharmaceutical industry standard. I realize that this sounds a bit commercial, but PER C6 were made for that particular purpose.”]