CLEARWATER, Fla. — A U.S. pro-life group that monitors pharmaceutical research says the Switzerland-based company Novartis’ new vaccine, Flucelvax, is ethically produced and does not rely on aborted fetal cell lines like some others in development.

“We are extremely pleased to see Novartis advance in the market over those such as Sanofi Pasteur, who are developing influenza vaccines using aborted fetal cell lines,” Debi Vinnedge, executive director of the Florida-based group Children of God for Life, said Nov. 21.

She said Novartis should be commended for “listening to public concerns.” Vinnedge encouraged the public to write the company and thank them for a vaccine that “will not force anyone to violate their religious and pro-life beliefs.”

Novartis has chosen to use a mammal cell line rather than the current, slower process using chicken embryos. Children of God for Life said the company’s 2001 purchase of a license to use an aborted fetal cell line, also purchased by several other pharmaceutical companies, had caused concern it would be used in vaccines.

Cell lines from two babies aborted in 1964 and 1970 have been used to create vaccinations for diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis, polio, rabies, chicken pox and smallpox.

The production of vaccines from these aborted fetal cells drew condemnation from the Pontifical Academy of Life in 2005. Though the Vatican's pontifical academy said the use of such vaccines is morally permissible because those vaccinated do not directly cooperate in producing the vaccine, it stressed the “grave responsibility” to try to use alternative vaccines and to object to vaccines with “moral problems.”  

Aborted fetal cells have also been used in the development of consumer products like anti-aging creams and artificial sweeteners.

The San Diego-based company Senomyx, many of whose patents involved an aborted fetal cell line derived from embryonic kidneys, drew scrutiny when business agreements with soft-drink maker PepsiCo and Campbell Soup came to light. Campbell Soup cut ties with Senomyx, while PepsiCo in April 2012 announced that it does not conduct or fund research that uses tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses.