As the race to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus continues, a recent report reveals that at least two frontrunners will be developed using fetal cell lines from aborted babies—in spite of the availability of more ethical alternatives.
According to a report by Newsweek last Tuesday, Janssen Research & Development USA, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are working to develop vaccines using the controversial cell lines.
Both research groups are on a short-list for funding from the Trump administration to develop a vaccine by January 2021. CanSino Biologics, Inc., the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, and the University of Pittsburgh are also using aborted fetal cell lines in their vaccine development.
There are two primary cell lines being used, Newsweek reports: one from a baby who was aborted sometime around 1972, and another from a baby who was aborted in 1985.
Decades-old fetal cell lines are already used to make a number of common vaccines, including against chickenpox, shingles, Hepatitis A and Rubella. A cell line is the term used to describe a culture of animal cells, in this case taken from fetuses, that can be cultivated repeatedly in a lab. The relatively common technique sees viruses grown in the cells, as the bugs aren’t alive and need a host to replicate.
According to Dr. Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who was not involved in the protests, this results in vaccines created using this method containing residual or “very, small, small, small quantities of trace DNA” from the original fetuses.
While more ethical, non-human cell lines exist, University of Pittsburgh researcher Andrea Gambotto argued that cell lines from aborted babies make for a better vaccine.
“Cultured [nonhuman] animal cells can produce the same proteins, but they would be decorated with different sugar molecules, which—in the case of vaccines—runs the risk of failing to evoke a robust and specific immune response,” Gambotto said.
This, however, is far from a consensus among the scientific community.
Earlier in the year, the Charlotte Lozier Institute identified 60 potential treatments for the novel coronavirus that do not use aborted fetal byproducts that are under investigation.
The assessment, prepared by researchers Drs. James L. Sherley, MD, PhD and David A. Prentice, PhD reviewed vaccines currently in development and found at least 10 companies who were not using fetal cell lines.
Several potentially beneficial alternatives exist, pro-life researchers point out, including pluripotent stem cells and tissue from placentas, umbilical cords, and amniotic fluid, and the Trump administration established a $20 million grant to invest in research for such alternatives.
As we’ve reported in the past, pro-life advocates have long been troubled by the ethical implications of using aborted fetal byproducts in the development of various treatments and vaccines.
“There is a huge market worth billions of dollars due to the creation of patents, sale of the cell lines by companies that actually store and resell aborted fetal material,” said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director for Children of God for Life, at a presentation in Rome last year.
Vinnedge noted that the biggest beneficiaries of abortion are “universities, biotech companies, the pharmaceutical industry and of course, Planned Parenthood who was caught in an undercover sting discussing how they ensure obtaining intact organs for sale.”
“The truth needs to be made known about this sordid history and it is my goal to see that is done, and ultimately to put an end to this barbaric practice,” Vinnedge declared. “Until our physicians and clergy leaders unite worldwide demanding the moral alternatives, the pharmaceutical industry is not going to change. In fact, as history and the current trends are proving, it’s only going to get worse.”
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