Historically, animals were the only living organisms (aside from plants) that were used in the production of vaccines. It wasn’t until mid-1900s that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine used tissue from human organs.  Vaccines, in order to be produced, need a cell culture to grow. Often, the culture will come from animals, eggs, or other similar mediums that pose very little ethical concerns for most people, barring animal rights’ activists. The question still remains, however: Do vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue?
Vaccines and Aborted Fetal Tissue
The initial experiments of the MMR vaccine involved growing rubella in a cell culture utilizing fibroblasts from the lungs of an aborted caucasian female fetus. Scientists found that the virus, among other viruses, grew well in the cell culture (termed WI-38). The virus was grown at an extremely low temperature in order to adapt to growing in that temperature so that, when injected into the body at room temperature, failed to expand. Still, the virus, when introduced into the body, produced an effective immune response that was just potent enough to provide a protective mechanism for the body.
So, the initial production of the MMR vaccine did in fact use aborted fetal tissue for its development. That being said, no new fetal tissue has been introduced to this virus, and the current vaccines out today rely solely on the single tissue of the aborted fetus from the 1960s. Regardless of this fact, it still raises serious ethical concerns among religious leaders and health advocates alike. Many individuals in certain religious movements are recommended to urge pharmaceutical companies to develop alternate vaccines that in no way are developed with human cell lines.
Vaccines Featuring Fetal Tissue
The MMR vaccine is not the only one that initially used aborted fetal tissue. Here is a list of the vaccines that used human cell lines for its development:
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Zoster (shingles)
- Hepatitis A
A full list can be obtained in the references section. It is up to the public to urge pharmaceutical companies to provide moral alternatives to these common vaccinations. If not, vaccines that were initially developed with aborted tissue will continue to be put to use. Parents with moral convictions should always research a vaccine before giving the OK to doctors. This moral conviction doesn’t just encompass the aspect of human tissue; the chemical preservatives and additives in some vaccines should also be looked into and risks should be known before administering.
What are your thoughts on using human cells, particularly from aborted fetal tissue, to develop vaccines? While it’s not practiced today, do you still have any uneasiness knowing that today’s vaccines were primarily developed using these methods? Why, or why not?
- The History of Vaccines. Human Cell Strains in Vaccine Development. The History of Vaccines. A Project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
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