A majority of COVID-19 vaccine candidates did not use cell lines from abortions in their development or production, although the four most high-profile vaccines are split on the issue, according to an analysis by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, posted an analysis in recent weeks of eight top Covid-19 vaccine candidates. The list included vaccines that already have been approved for emergency use, as well as those that have not.
Six of the eight did not use abortion-derived cell lines in their development or production, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
The six vaccines that did not use cell lines from abortions were from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Sanofi/GSK, Inovio and Merck. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines already are being given to Americans.
However, vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – two vaccines in the news – did use stem cells from abortions in their development and production, the institute says.
The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are the four that have either been approved for emergency use by the United States Food and Drug Administration or are being considered for emergency use.
Tara Sander Lee, a Charlotte Lozier senior fellow and the co-author of the analysis, called it “great news” that a majority of vaccine candidates “do not use fetal cell lines in the production” – that is, “what is going to actually be injected into the individual.” Lee made the comments during an interview with EWTN’s Pro-Life Weekly.
“This is incredibly positive and encouraging news that we have now,” she said. “Six leading vaccines in Operation Warp Speed … are using alternative methods that do not rely on fetal cell lines for production.”
The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, she said, are the most problematic for pro-lifers.
“We do know that these cell lines were derived from a past abortion,” Lee said.
David Prentice, vice president and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said confusion has arisen in the pro-life community because Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used “confirmatory tests” using fetal cell lines on the “finished product” – that is, after the vaccine was developed and produced.
Testing, he said, “does not directly connect” the fetal cell lines to the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. It is, he said, a “level removed” from development and production.
“But because the company and their collaborators may have used those abortion-derived cell lines in the testing, there is still a matter of concern here,” he said.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center has argued there is an “ethical hierarchy” among COVID-19 vaccines, with ones developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson being the most problematic.
Prentice said in a January interview that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines use “fetal cells in the actual production of the vaccine – it's an ongoing essential part of their manufacturing process.” By contrast, the six other vaccines, including the ones by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, do not.
“In terms of the production, in terms of what goes into my arm, [they had] no contact whatsoever with a fetal cell line,” Prentice said of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Prentice encouraged pro-life citizens to speak up to their doctor or pharmacy if they want a vaccine made by a specific company.
“You're going to have to ask your doctor,” he said. “You're going to ask the local pharmacy.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sittithat Tangwitthayaphum
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.