Cells culled from deliberately aborted babies are being used in the production of at least five leading coronavirus vaccine candidates, including front-runners by Moderna Therapeutics, Johnson & Johnson and Oxford University.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and pro-life groups recently called on U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn to ensure that Catholic and other conscientious objectors to such a vaccine have alternative corona vaccines available that have no connection to abortion.
“To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible,” said an April 17 letter signed by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, along with three other conference bishops and members of groups including the Family Research Council, Christian Medical and Dental Association, the American College of Pediatricians, the pro-life group Live Action and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“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,” the letter stated.
“Unfortunately, there has been a history in creating vaccines — in some cases anyway — using cell lines from aborted fetuses,” Archbishop Naumann explained to EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. “Some of the vaccines that are commonly used today have this ethical problem. We as a Church obviously see this as a moral issue, that we don’t want to do anything that in some way gives support for the idea of abortion.”
Debi Vinnedge, executive director of the Illinois-based pro-life group Children of God for Life, brought the fetal-tissue issue in coronavirus vaccines to light to pro-life groups last month.
“I hesitated to bring forward what I’d found out because there is so much fear over the coronavirus,” Vinnedge told the Register. “I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but I soon found that there are ethical alternatives — [French pharmaceutical company] Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine, for example, does not use aborted fetal cells.”
Vinnedge researched Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotechnology company Moderna’s front-runner vaccine, financed and plugged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Moderna’s vaccine uses a completely new vaccine platform of messenger RNA (mRNA) and a modified Spike protein — similar to the COVID-19 virus’ famous Spike proteins that it uses to invade cells. The vaccine is designed to train the vaccine recipient’s immune system to produce antibodies against the virus.
Vinnedge said her heart sank when she discovered that Spike protein was produced using Free Style 293 cells, which are human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells from healthy aborted babies.
“So the kidney material, the fetal kidney material was as follows,” professor Alex van der Eb of Leiden University in the Netherlands explained to a 2001 FDA meeting of its Vaccines and Biological Products Committee. “The kidney of the fetus, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore.”
“The fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal,” van der Eb continued. “Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at the time, but it got lost, all this information.”
By contrast, Sanofi-Pasteur’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate uses insect cells rather than aborted fetal cells in its manufacture.
Mass production of vaccines that have used chicken eggs to cultivate viruses have been a problem, so Sanofi took its recombinant DNA vaccine to the cell line derived from the fall armyworm for a rapid growth medium and faster production for millions of vaccines.
Vinnedge discovered that another leading vaccine candidate also uses a cell line from an aborted baby in its production. Janssen Pharmaceutical, owned by Johnson & Johnson, which received a $456-million contract from the Trump administration in March — is using its PER C6 Ad5 technology, derived from an aborted baby’s retinal tissue.
Again, it was van der Eb who revealed the origins of the PER C6 cell lines at the 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,” he stated at the time. “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.”
Vinnedge has begun to painstakingly research the background on each COVID-19 vaccine to compile a list of those that are contaminated, and those that are ethical, for concerned consumers. The vaccines of two other leading researchers, Oxford University and Merck, are also tainted by use of the HEK 293 cells, for example, as is the University of Pittsburgh’s vaccine.
Merck’s MMR II vaccine, as well as its shingles and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines, Pentacel and all Hepatitis-A vaccines are manufactured using human fetal cell lines derived from aborted babies.
As well, each cell line Merck uses is derived from multiple, usually late-term, babies. At least 99 babies were aborted to create the cell lines used for the rubella vaccine alone, for example.
Not all aborted cell lines are from decades-old abortions either. Planned Parenthood’s recent trade in fetal tissue fuels an extensive pharmaceutical drug industry, including research using humanized mice and rats that are made from aborted babies’ parts mixed with animals to study vaccine immunological reactions to HIV virus, ebola, influenza virus, West Nile virus, dengue virus and more.
These treatments based on fetal cells are also questionable when it comes to the health of the patient, according to Theresa Deisher, founder and lead scientist of the Seattle-based Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute. She wrote an open letter to legislators about fetal-cell DNA in vaccines last year and their potential to trigger autoimmune disease and cancer.
“Anyone who says that the fetal DNA contaminating our vaccines is harmless either does not know anything about immunity and Toll-like receptors [proteins that play a key role in activating immune-system responses] or they are not telling the truth,” wrote Deisher, a Stanford University-trained molecular biologist.
“To illustrate the autoimmune capability of very small amounts of fetal DNA, consider this: Labor is triggered by fetal DNA from the baby that builds up in the mother’s bloodstream, triggering a massive immune rejection of the baby.”
“The fetal DNA levels in a child after being injected with fetal-manufactured vaccines reach the same level that triggers autoimmune rejection of baby by mother,” Deisher told legislators. “If fetal DNA can trigger labor (a naturally desired autoimmune reaction), then those same levels in vaccines can trigger autoimmunity in a child.”
Deisher also contended that circulating foreign fetal DNA in a vaccinated child’s bloodstream also has the potential to incorporate into the patient’s DNA, causing mutations that may lead to cancer.
In addition to concerns with the potential for cancer and autoimmune disease as a result of residual DNA fragments in newly developed COVID-19 vaccines, Jena Dalpez, a spokeswoman for Sound Choice, told the Register that “there is also concern that all of the COVID-19 vaccines are being rushed to market, bypassing very important animal safety testing, not using inert placebos in control groups, and rushing human trials, potentially missing critical side effects and unintended outcomes.”
Said Dalpez, “Since the federal government has already stated they will approve COVID-19 vaccines for use under emergency-use Protocols in the fall if they meet the barest of testing measures, it is deeply concerning that many thousands, if not millions, of individuals could be exposed to a vaccine that carries undiscovered risks and unknown benefits.”
‘No Other Choices’
However, extenuating circumstances due to the COVID-19 public-health concern may lead to wider acceptance of a morally tainted coronavirus vaccine.
A 2005 statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life communicated that Catholics who take vaccines tainted with aborted fetal material have only “remote passive material cooperation” with the abortion itself and that “it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health” or “if there is grave inconvenience.”
But in cases where there are “considerable dangers” to public health, “vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis,” the statement advised.
“I think in some cases where there are no other ethical choices and for public-health reasons, Catholics may be forced to use these vaccines even though we object to the way that they were developed,” Archbishop Naumann said.
However, the 2005 Pontifical Academy statement also advises Catholics that they have an obligation to object to vaccine manufacture using aborted fetal cells and to advocate for ethical vaccines to be developed.
Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, stressed to the Register that this is the central purpose of the bishops’ April 17 letter. While the U.S. bishops are guided about the permissibility of using an abortion-derived vaccine by the 2005 Vatican document, “regardless of the moral analysis of the use of a vaccine that is ultimately produced, the purpose of our letter is to fulfill the duty we have as Catholics to advocate for the production of ethical vaccines (free of any connection to abortion) before they are produced!” Schleppenbach commented via email.
The letter to the FDA commissioner, which was also copied to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, cited ethical coronavirus vaccine candidates, including those from Sanofi Pasteur; the Pennsylvania-based Inovio; and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, based in Iowa City, Iowa, which are not tied to abortion.
“This is the moment for us to advocate because there is no need to use cell lines from aborted fetuses,” Archbishop Naumann told EWTN. “There are other cell lines that can be used.”
Register correspondent Celeste McGovern writes from Nova Scotia, Canada.