Do Vaccines Contain Aborted Fetal Tissue?

A syringe is injected into a vial
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It may come as a surprise, but several common vaccines are made by growing the necessary viruses in fetal embryo fibroblast cells. These cells originally came from tissue obtained from two fetuses that were legally and electively aborted in the early 1960s. The same cells have continued to grow in a laboratory and are still used to make vaccines today. No further fetal cells have ever been harvested since then, but, because the original source was aborted fetuses, the topic is controversial.

The vaccines that grow in these fetal cells include varicella (chickenpox), shingles, hepatitis A, rubella (which is what the "R" stands for in the MMR vaccine), and one type of rabies vaccine.

Fetal cells were originally used because viruses tend to grow better in cells from humans than from animals. Fetal cells do not divide as many times as other cell types, so they can be used for longer. In addition, because of the ability to maintain these cells at very low temperatures, such as in liquid nitrogen, scientists are able to continue using the same fetal cell lines that were originally isolated in the 1960s. Vaccine manufacturers obtain human cell lines from FDA-certified cell banks. After processing, very little, if any, of that tissue, remains in the vaccine.

For Those With Ethical Concerns

For those who are still uncomfortable with this revelation, it might be helpful to know that the Vatican has actually taken a stand on the issue. The Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement in 2005 saying that, though it is wrong to make vaccines using aborted fetal tissue, and that such practices should no longer be employed, it is acceptable to use vaccines developed from abortions that were carried out decades ago, because immunizations play a vital role in protecting life by preventing illness and death.

Another important consideration relates to the danger posed to children by avoiding vaccines. In the United Kingdom and the United States, some parents who have chosen not to vaccinate have seen their children develop measles. Measles is a very contagious and potentially dangerous disease that had, until recently, been all but eradicated in technologically advanced countries.

The Catholic Church and others concerned about the use of aborted fetuses in the development of vaccinations support alternative vaccines that have been prepared using an animal as opposed to human tissues and cells. In some cases, such alternative vaccinations are already available. If you want to learn more about alternatives or have specific concerns, contact your pediatrician for further information.

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