In addition to standard concerns over the safety of COVID-19 vaccines is the moral dilemma of taking vaccines made with aborted fetal cells. For many, this alone is a cause for objection. Several of the vaccine candidates, including AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, are made using aborted fetal cell lines.1,2
Several fact checkers — including Politifact,3 The Associated Press4 and Snopes5 — have labeled the claim as “false,” but is it? As it turns out, fact checkers are relying on semantics to “debunk” this claim. In reality, most thinking individuals are able to determine the truth of the matter once the details are explained.
Semantics and Technicalities Used to ‘Debunk’ the Truth
A common mistake by less experienced citizen journalists is to use rather general terms, assuming people will “get the gist” without having to be overly specific, and this is precisely what self-declared fact checkers home in on when rating something false or misleading.
Fact checkers routinely rely on semantics and technicalities to break apart a given claim, and unless you carefully read their explanation, you’re likely to miss this and simply write it off based on the headline claiming something to be false. The case of COVID-19 vaccines containing aborted fetal cells is a perfect example of this, so let’s go through some of what you need to know before discounting this claim off-hand.
Commonly Used Fetal Cell Lines
There are several cell lines commonly used in vaccine development that originate from aborted fetuses, including:6
HEK2937,8,9,10,11 — human embryonic cell line originally derived from kidney tissue obtained from a female fetus aborted in the Netherlands in 1972
MRC512 — human embryonic cell line originally derived from the lung tissue of a 14-week-old male fetus aborted in 1966
PER.C613 — human embryonic cell line originally derived from the retina of an 18-week-old male fetus aborted in the Netherlands in 1985
WI3814 — human embryonic cell line originally derived from the lung tissue of a 12-week-old female fetus aborted in 1961
Vaccine makers using at least one of these fetal cell lines in the development of their COVID-19 vaccines include:15,16,17
Jansen Research and Development (owned by Johnson & Johnson), (PER.C6)
CanSino Biologics (HEK293)
University of Pittsburgh (HEK293)
Vaccine makers using either “ethically derived” cell lines, meaning cell lines that do not originate from aborted human fetuses, or no cell lines at all, include Moderna, Merck, Novavax, Sanofi Pasteur, Pfizer, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline and Sinovac.18
Now, the claim made by some citizen journalists is that certain COVID-19 vaccines “contain cells from an aborted fetus.” One video headline stated: “CONFIRMED — aborted fetus in COVID-19 vaccine.”19
Fact checkers have “debunked” these claims and labeled them false, in one instance because the name of the fetal cell line was incorrect,20 and in others because the vaccines do not literally “contain” these cells; rather, the fetal cell lines were used as a growth medium for the virus during the production phase.
In yet other instances, fact checkers have slapped a false label on it by claiming the cell lines are not the original cells but, rather, clones thereof.21 All of these justifications are really all about semantics. What most people are referring to when they object to the use of fetal cell lines is that an aborted fetus was used. Period.
While some may indeed be concerned about the actual, literal inclusion of fetal cells in the finished vaccine, typically, it’s simply a moral objection to the use of aborted fetuses in medical research and development.
So, labeling the claim that “COVID-19 vaccines contain fetal cells” as “false” can actually be just as misleading, as this ignores the moral issue of aborted fetuses being used in medicine, and in fact makes it sound as though it’s not happening. Again, you’d have to read the whole fact checking article to see that fetal cell lines are indeed used in the development of some of these vaccines, and the “false” label is based on some technical detail or specificity of the verbiage.
How Are Fetal Cell Lines Used in Vaccine Development?
So, what is a fetal cell line, really, and how is it used in vaccine development? Simplified layman’s answers to these questions can be found in the fact sheet22 “COVID Vaccines & Fetal Cell Lines,” created by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
The following illustrations and descriptions are taken from the first page of that fact sheet. The bottom illustration shows the specific role of these cell lines. The cells are used as a growth medium for the virus, since the virus needs a living cell to infect and multiply in. The viruses are then harvested from the cells and purified (and inactivated in the case of inactivated vaccines) before being added to the final vaccine as one of several ingredients.
According to Politifact’s fact check of the fetal cell claim:23
“After the purification process, the final vaccine contains trillionths of a gram of fragmented DNA from the cell line … The vaccine is created from a virus grown in a cell line derived from aborted fetal tissue. However, the cell line is purified away from the vaccine before it is used. It is inaccurate to claim that the vaccine ‘contains’ aborted fetal tissue.”
Similarly, The Associated Press fact checking article included a quote by Dr. Deepak Shrivastava, president of Gladstone Institutes, who stated:24
“What’s important for the public to know even if they are opposed to the use of fetal cells for therapies, these medicines that are being made and vaccines do not contain any aspect of the cells in them. The cells are used as factories for production.”
The Ethics of Fetal Cell Lines
Again, for many, the issue is not that the vaccine might contain actual cells from an aborted fetus. It’s the fact that a fetus was used in the production — in any way. For some, this is the only thing that matters. Others may feel using these cells as a growth medium is fine as long as the cells are not injected along with the vaccine.
Either way, fact checkers are clearly trying to dissuade people from having a public conversation about the ethics of using aborted fetuses in vaccine development. The fact is, fetal cells ARE used during production of certain vaccines, and some may object to getting those vaccines because they object to abortion and/or feel it’s unethical to harvest aborted fetuses for their tissues.
There’s also the issue of disclosure. Drug companies and vaccine policymakers should not be allowed to decide whether or not to share this information with the public prior to vaccination. After all, there are other vaccines grown in animal cells, for example, which might be a more ethical choice for some people, but to make that choice, they must be given the information.
The Nonsensical ‘Clone’ Defense
The claim that fetal cells are not used in vaccine development because they are clones of the original is perhaps the most ludicrous justification used by fact checkers.25 That’s like saying your 20-year-old or 40-year-old body is no longer your body because all the cells are mere copies of the cells found in the original fetus that grew inside your mother.
If the cells in your body are still you, then the cells in the petri dish are still that of the original fetus that was aborted.
Cells grow and multiply naturally. The cells in your adult body are no longer the original individual cells of you as a fetus. They are in essence “clones” of the originals. They’ve been growing and multiplying, dying and being replaced, with each passing moment from the time of your conception when a sperm entered an egg.
There’s virtually no difference between cells growing and multiplying indefinitely in a petri dish and cells growing and multiplying in your body during your lifetime. If the cells in your body are still you, then the cells in the petri dish are still that of the original fetus that was aborted.
Residual DNA in Vaccines Linked to Autism?
Some may also object to vaccines manufactured through the use of fetal cell lines on the basis that there may be health risks involved, due to potential DNA contamination. In a 2011 scientific review,26 Helen Ratajczak, a former drug company scientist, linked the introduction of human fetal cell lines in vaccine production (among other things) to the rapid rise in autism. On page 70 of her paper, Ratajczak explains this particular connection:27
“Data from a worldwide composite of studies show that an increase in cumulative incidence began about 1988–1990. The new version of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (i.e., MMR II) that did not contain thimerosal was introduced in 1979.
By 1983, only the new version was available. Autism in the United States spiked dramatically between 1983 and 1990 from 4–5/10,000 to 1/500. In 1988, two doses of MMR II were recommended to immunize those individuals who did not respond to the first injection. A spike of incidence of autism accompanied the addition of the second dose of MMR II …
It is important to note that unlike the former MMR, the rubella component of MMR II was propagated in a human cell line derived from embryonic lung tissue.
The MMR II vaccine is contaminated with human DNA from the cell line. This human DNA could be the cause of the spikes in incidence. An additional increased spike in incidence of autism occurred in 1995 when the chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue …
The human DNA from the vaccine can be randomly inserted into the recipient’s genes by homologous recombination, a process that occurs spontaneously only within a species. Hot spots for DNA insertion are found on the X chromosome in eight autism-associated genes involved in nerve cell synapse formation, central nervous system development, and mitochondrial function.
This could provide some explanation of why autism is predominantly a disease of boys. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that residual human DNA in some vaccines might cause autism.”
Fetal Cell Lines May Contaminate Vaccine With DNA
Another paper28 focusing on the health consequences of vaccines made with the help of fetal cell lines was published in 2015. These authors also stress that fetal cell lines used in vaccine development can cause the vaccine to be contaminated with human DNA — which has happened with certain MMR vaccines — and that this DNA contamination may play a role in autism and autoimmune diseases.
According to the authors:
“Average single stranded DNA and double stranded DNA in Meruvax II were 142.05 ng/vial and 35.00 ng/vial, respectively, and 276.00 ng/vial and 35.74 ng/vial in Havrix respectively. The size of the fetal DNA fragments in Meruvax II was approximately 215 base pairs.
There was spontaneous cellular and nuclear DNA uptake in HFF1 and NCCIT cells. Genes that have been linked to autism (autism-associated genes; AAGs) have a more concentrated susceptibility for insults to genomic stability in comparison to the group of all genes contained within the human genome …
Vaccines manufactured in human fetal cell lines contain unacceptably high levels of fetal DNA fragment contaminants. The human genome naturally contains regions that are susceptible to double strand break formation and DNA insertional mutagenesis.”
In 2019, one of the four authors of that 2015 paper, Dr. Theresa Deisher, wrote an open letter29 to legislators, reviewing the hazard of fetal cell DNA in vaccines. In it, she wrote:30
“I obtained my doctorate from Stanford University in Molecular and Cellular Physiology in 1990 and completed my post-doctoral work at the University of Washington. My career has been spent in the commercial biotechnology industry, and I have done work from basic biological and drug discovery through clinical development …
Merck’s MMR II vaccine (as well as the chickenpox, Pentacel and all Hep-A containing vaccines) is manufactured using human fetal cell lines and are heavily contaminated with human fetal DNA from the production process.
Levels in our children can reach up to 5 ng/ml after vaccination, depending on the age, weight and blood volume of the child. That level is known to activate Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), which can cause autoimmune attacks …
Anyone who says that the fetal DNA contaminating our vaccines is harmless either does not know anything about immunity and Toll- like receptors or they are not telling the truth …
Administration of fragments of human fetal (primitive) non-self DNA to a child could generate an immune response that would also cross-react with the child’s own DNA, since the contaminating DNA could have sections of overlap very similar to the child’s own DNA …
Injecting our children with human fetal DNA contaminants bears the risk of causing two well-established pathologies:
1) Insertional mutagenesis: fetal human DNA incorporates into the child’s DNA causing mutations. Gene therapy using small fragment homologous recombination has demonstrated that as low as 1.9 ng/ml of DNA fragments results in insertion into the genome of stem cells in 100% of mice injected.
The levels of human fetal DNA fragments in our children after vaccination with MMR, Varivax (chickenpox) or Hepatitis A containing vaccines reach levels beyond 1.9 ng/ml.
2) Autoimmune disease: fetal human DNA triggers a child’s immune system to attack his/her own body.”
Adverse Effects Relabeled to Minimize Safety Concerns
Disturbingly, the public is now being reprogrammed to view side effects of vaccination as a natural occurrence by renaming adverse reactions as “immune responses.” A December 1, 2020, CNBC article,31 which looked at the frequency of adverse reactions, noted that 10% to 15% of participants in the Pfizer and Moderna trials reported “significantly noticeable” side effects.
At the bottom of the article is a suggestion from a past advisory committee member, who proposes the nomenclature of “serious adverse reaction” be changed to “immune response,” so they can change the way people view these side effects, even if they end up having to stay home from work because of them, which appears quite possible.
Dr. Eli Perencevich, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa Health Care, has suggested essential workers should be granted three days of paid leave after they’re vaccinated, as many will feel too sick to work.32 Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the vaccine’s side effects are “no walk in the park.”33
Side Effects Are Common in COVID-19 Vaccine Trials
An October 1, 2020, report34 by CNBC reviewed the experiences of five participants in Moderna’s and Pfizer’s SARS-CoV-2 vaccine trials. One of the participants in Pfizer’s vaccine trial “woke up with chills, shaking so hard he cracked a tooth after taking the second dose.”
A Moderna trial participant told CNBC he had a low-grade fever and felt “under the weather” for several days after his first shot. Eight hours after his second shot he was “bed-bound with a fever of over 101, shakes, chills, a pounding headache and shortness of breath. He hardly slept that night, recording that his temperature was higher than 100 degrees for five hours.”35
Regulators in the U.K. are also warning people to avoid Pfizer’s vaccine if you have a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, medicine or food. They also warn the vaccine should only be given in facilities with resuscitation capabilities.36
A group of researchers have also expressed concern that some COVID-19 vaccine candidates might put certain people at a higher risk of acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.37,38,39
Using the failed attempt to create an HIV vaccine as an example, researchers explain40 that the genetically engineered adenovirus, Ad5, used in the HIV vaccine trials, is the same one being used now in four COVID-19 candidates being studied in the U.S., Russia and Pakistan.
At the time of the failed HIV vaccine, scientists were unable to identify the exact reason why Ad5 seemed to increase the risk of HIV; it just inexplicably did. Interestingly, Dr. Anthony Fauci was the lead author on the HIV study,41 in which he questioned “whether the problem extends to some or all of the other recombinant vectors currently in development or to other vector-based vaccines.”
Reflecting on that question, the researchers say they decided to go public with this information now, because Ad5 vaccines for COVID-19 might soon be tested in populations with high HIV prevalence, and they believe that informed consent about the HIV/AIDS risk should be part of the COVID-19 clinical studies.
At least two participants in the AstraZeneca trial have also developed transverse myelitis (severe inflammation of the spinal cord) and a participant in India’s AstraZeneca trial is suing the company claiming the vaccine caused “serious neurological damage.”42 Meanwhile, a 70-year-old Philadelphia priest who participated in Moderna’s Phase 3 trial has died.43 It’s still unknown whether he received the vaccine or a placebo.
It’s worth noting that the number needed to vaccinate in order to prevent one case of COVID-19 is 256 for Pfizer’s vaccine44 and 167 for Moderna’s,45 so hundreds of people will be risking their health to potentially prevent a single individual from getting sick.
Add to that the fact that the vaccines are only evaluated for their ability to reduce symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of their severity. It’s entirely unknown whether they’ll actually lower the risk of infection, hospitalization or death.
Who Pays for COVID-19 Vaccine Damage?
I’ve written several articles discussing the potential problems with COVID-19 vaccines, and these risks are made all the more concerning considering you can expect little help if you do end up being harmed by the vaccine. As explained by Dr. Meryl Nass in a December 4, 2020, blog post:46
“If you are injured by a vaccine or other ‘countermeasure’ designated by the DHHS Secretary as intended for a pandemic or bioterrorism threat (COVID-19, pandemic flu, anthrax, smallpox) your options for receiving any financial benefit are very limited.
First, everyone involved with getting the vaccine to you has had their liability waived under the PREP Act … Congress did create a program to compensate some victims, but it is much less generous than the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) … It is called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).”
As noted by Nass, the CICP is administered within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which is also sponsoring the COVID-19 vaccination program. This conflict of interest makes the CICP less than likely to find fault with the vaccine.
Your only route of appeal is within the DHHS, where your case would simply be reviewed by another employee. The DHHS is also responsible for making the payment. “DHHS therefore essentially acts as the judge, jury and defendant,” Nass writes.47
What’s more, while the NVICP pays some of the costs associated with any given claim, the CICP does not. This means you’ll also be responsible for attorney fees and expert witness fees, for example.
According to the CICP director, the maximum payout you can receive — even in cases of permanent disability or death — is $250,000 per person; however, you’d have to exhaust your private insurance policy before the CICP gives you a dime. CICP will only pay the difference between what your insurance covers and the total payout amount established for your case.
For permanent disability, even $250,000 won’t go far. The CICP also has a one year statute of limitations, so you have to act quickly. Of course, a significant problem with the COVID-19 vaccine is that no one really knows what injuries might arise, or when, making difficult to prove the injury was caused by the vaccine.
Should your employer end up making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment, you also cannot sue your employer for vaccine-related side effects. According to experts interviewed by CNBC, “claims would be routed through worker’s compensation programs and treated as an on-the-job injury.”48