I want to state up front that this article is not “anti-vaccine.” The issues surrounding vaccine safety will not even be discussed. My only goals in authoring this series are: Part 1) unequivocally dismiss false information and claims regarding the use of aborted babies in the research and development of vaccines; and Part 2) discuss any moral and ethical obligations the pro-life Christian may or may not have with respect to maintaining a pro-vaccine stance.
Since I entered the great vaccine debate, I have noticed that the vast majority of Christians are completely unaware that any moral conflict exists between a pro-life and a pro-vaccine stance. Even among the minority that are superficially aware of a potential dilemma, a vast majority are basing their moral/ethical conclusions on false information. Unfortunately, this false information is even being perpetuated by sources that Christians generally consider trustworthy. I will begin by addressing each group separately.
What Moral Dilemma?
Those unaware of any conflict should know that it is an undebated fact that aborted babies are used in both the research and development of vaccines and that some vaccines contain cellular debris, protein, and DNA from aborted babies.
Below is a clip from the 2018 deposition of prominent vaccine researcher, developer, and consultant to multiple vaccine manufacturers, Stanley Plotkin, in which use of aborted babies is discussed—“straight from the horse’s mouth”, so to speak:
In the clip, Plotkin reluctantly admits that in the one study that is being referred to alone, 76 aborted babies, all 3 months gestation or older, were involved. The plaintiff’s lawyer asks Dr. Plotkin:
“Are you aware that one of the objections to vaccination by the plaintiff in this case is the inclusion of aborted fetal tissue in the development of vaccines and the fact that it’s actually part of the ingredients of vaccines?”
To which Plotkin responds:
“I’m aware of those objections. The Catholic Church has actually issued a document on that which says that individuals who need vaccines should receive the vaccines regardless of the fact and, I think it implies that I am the individual who will go to hell because of the use of aborted tissues, which I am glad to do.”
The ingredients list the questioner is referring to is none other than the CDC Vaccine Excipient and Media Summary. In this list, the cell lines from aborted babies are referred to as “human diploid lung fibroblasts,” “human diploid cells,” etc, from either WI-38 or MRC-5. Vaccines on this list containing one or both of the above are: Adenovirus, Hep A, Hep A/B combo, MMR, MMRV, Varicella (chicken pox), and Zoster (shingles).
The 2008 document, “Issues Associated with Residual Cell Substrate DNA: An Update,” authored by the FDA’s Keith Peden, states as its “overall aim”: “To answer a 40- year old question: Can residual DNA from the production cell substrate pose a risk to vaccine recipients?”
Obviously, if some vaccines didn’t contain residual DNA from these aborted babies, there would be no “40-year old question” as to the safety of its presence.
Is the “One Night Stand” Analogy Accurate?
Among the minority who are aware of the moral dilemma, a large portion have fallen prey to a justification based on the false claims that only two abortions that took place a really long time ago were involved with the vaccines we use today. Furthermore, many of these individuals have been led to believe that aborted babies are no longer used in vaccine production and development at all.
The screenshot below is an example from my own personal experience in attempting to educate fellow pro-lifers on the issue. This commenter related the “one night stand” argument perfectly.
It should be noted that many don’t find this argument compelling based on the grounds that there is no statute of limitations on morality. However, as the information is patently false, it is a moot point.
As I briefly mentioned above, Plotkin admits to the use of 76 aborted babies in the development of only one cell line- WI-38. In 2006 the National Catholic Register published “A Brief History of Human Diploid Cell Strains” by Dr. Rene Leiva. Dr. Leiva documents some of the newer cell lines that have been developed since WI-38.
“Newer HDCSs continued to be made as back-ups for the current cell strains. Among the most common ones are IMR-90, cell strain 293, and PER C6.15 In short, IMR-90 was established from a sixteen-week-old human fetus on July 7, 1975, from a therapeutic abortion performed on a thirty-eight-year-old white mother of six. Cell strain 293 was made from human embryonic kidney cells from an aborted fetus in 1972, and cell strain PER C6 from human embryonic retina cells from an abortion in 1985…
PER C6 came from an eighteen-week-old aborted fetus because ‘the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus and the father was unknown.’ Van der Eb stated that ‘PER C6 was made just for the pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus vectors.’ He also added, ‘I realize that this sounds a bit commercial, but PER C6 was made for that particular purpose.’ Cell strain 293 was made for ‘basic research.’”
Plotkin himself has published conflicting information on the number of aborted babies used to arrive at the RA 27/3 virus strain that is used in the Rubella vaccine (a component of the MMR vaccine) most commonly used worldwide. In some areas, Plotkin indicates 27 abortions. However, Leiva cites Plotkin’s own conflicting testimony:
“…six months after publishing this research, Plotkin and colleagues published an article documenting forty, not twenty-seven, abortions.”
Development of Cell Lines from Aborted Babies is Ongoing
As this 1978 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology makes clear, the cell lines currently used in vaccine production are neither immortal, nor infinite in supply:
“With the diminishing supply of the human fetal lung WI-38 cell strain, a replacement for viral isolation is needed. Two candidates are the human fetal lung strains MRC-5 and IMR-90.”
Those two additional cell lines have been in use for quite some time now (you will recognize MRC-5 from the CDC’s Excipient list above).
Additionally, two studies, one dated 2001 and the other 2010, discuss the use of cell lines from aborted babies in the production of future flu vaccines. The 2001 study references the use of PER C6, while the 2010 study refers to yet another cell line, HEK 293.
WALVAX-2 is a brand new cell line developed in 2015 for its future use in vaccine development.
This 2015 PBS article, “Scientists say fetal tissue remains essential for vaccines and developing treatments,” makes clear that “anti-abortionists” are considered an obstruction to the pro-vaccine cause:
“From 2011 through 2014 alone, 97 research institutions — mostly universities and hospitals — received a total of $280 million in federal grants for fetal tissue research from the National Institutes of Health…Vaccines have been one of the chief public benefits of fetal tissue research…Fetal tissue was ‘absolutely critical’ to the development of a potential Ebola vaccine that has shown promise, said Dr. Carrie Wolinetz, an associate director at NIH, which last year handed out $76 million for work involving fetal tissue, or 0.2 percent of the agency’s research budget.”
Where Does This Leave Pro-Life/Pro-Vaccine Christians?
Well, as any good Southerner would say, between a rock and hard place. Once all the facts are known- supporting vaccine research and development as it currently stands is, frankly, irreconcilable with a pro-life stance. Is the case closed? Is it impossible to reasonably be both pro-life and pro-vaccine? Actually, no. We’ll pick up there in Part 2.