Vaccines and abortion
Some vaccines being used today are made in descendent cells of aborted fetuses. The fetuses were aborted almost 40 years ago, and cells from the fetuses were harvested. Descendent cells from those original cells, which have been grown independently, are used to make vaccines. It is important to note that descendent cells are not the cells of the aborted child. These descendent cells never formed a part of the victim’s body. Nor is there any evidence the abortions were performed to obtain cells to produce vaccines.
The cell lines WI-38 and MRC-5 are derived from descendent cells, as described above. Any product grown in the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines, therefore, has a distant association with abortion. The cells in these lines have gone through multiple divisions before they are used in vaccine manufacture. After manufacture, the vaccines are removed from the cell lines and purified. One cannot accurately say that the vaccines contain any of the cells from the original abortion.
These cell lines are used for numerous vaccines, including rabies, mumps, rubella, varicella (and hepatitis A. Sometimes alternative products, not associated with these cell lines, are available for immunization against rabies and mumps. However, at present, in the United States, there are no alternative vaccines against rubella (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A.
The Pontifical Academy for Life, in 2005, issued a statement declaring one is morally free to use vaccines regardless of their historical association with abortion. This is because the risk to public health, especially the health of children and pregnant mothers, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This obligation is especially important to parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.
According to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, there is a rabies vaccine (RabAvert) and a single dose mumps vaccine (Mumpsvax) without any association with abortion that are equally safe and effective as the vaccines which use the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines. Parents should check with their physician regarding the efficacy and availability of these and any other vaccine which could be used as alternatives.
Although some insist they must abide by their conscience and not receive these vaccines, the Pontifical Academy for Life is clear in its analysis that one must inform one’s conscience properly in this determination. It is difficult to find a moral rationale to refuse immunizations against dangerous contagious diseases, such as rubella, especially considering the obligation each person has for the health of all children, including unborn children, and the common good.
The Pontifical Academy for Life does recommend a concerted and vigorous attempt by the public to influence vaccine manufacturers by expressing our conscientious objection to use of these vaccines. Upon use, one should register a complaint with the manufacturer of the products as an acceptable form of conscientious objection. This signals opposition to the wider, morally reprehensible practice of using the unborn as little more than research material for science.