Question: “I’ve heard that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue. I have a religious objection to abortion so I can’t get those vaccines.”
Dr. LaSalle: Vaccines are produced in a variety of different ways, using a variety of different cell cultures. Viruses and bacteria will only grow or replicate with an adequate host cell, with adequate nutrition. Multiple different types of cells are used as the manufacturing plants for these viruses and bacteria or pieces of virus and bacteria. These include yeast cells, canine cells, and even human cells, among others.
Human cell lines have some advantages for growing viruses and bacteria over other types of cells.
Some pathogens don’t grow well in animal cells.
Animal cells can introduce contamination by viruses or bacteria that aren’t typically carried in human cell lines.
Vaccine production can be hindered or halted, causing a shortage of vaccine, if animal products used in vaccine development are threatened. For example, if an illness were to strike egg-laying chickens as eggs are commonly used in production of the influenza vaccine.
There are only six vaccines that are made using human (fetal) tissue. These are the Varicella, Hepatitis A, Rubella, Adenovirus, Rabies, and the original shingles vaccines. Only the first three are routinely used in the United States today.
It is true that the cell lines used to produce these vaccines were taken from two aborted fetuses. These fetuses were aborted in the 1960s by maternal choice, NOT for the purpose of vaccine production. The cells from these tissues have been propagated, or replicated, since then. These are “descendent” cells. No NEW fetal tissue is required or has been used.
Some of our patients, particularly our Catholic patients, may voice concerns about these vaccines. Some years ago, the National Catholic Bioethics Center prepared a statement regarding the use of these vaccines that may help put patients’ minds at ease. Following are quotes from this statement.
“It is important to note that descendent cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim’s body.
“There would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.”
Of course, the National Catholic Bioethics Center DOES encourage families to voice their concerns to government agencies and vaccine manufacturers and to call for the development of future vaccines in ways that do not support abortion.