How can one tell whether a COVID-19 vaccine was derived from an aborted fetal cell line?

By Alan Moy, MD

As of April 30th 2020, there are over 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development. The success rate of vaccines is very low at approximately 5 to 10 percent. It can be very difficult for the average layperson to determine whether a vaccine was created with an aborted fetal cell line for the following reasons. First, the science is complicated. Second, the aborted fetal cell line has a designated scientific code name such as HEK293 and PER.C6. Third, pharmaceutical companies make it difficult to track that information. However, there are some general guidelines that the laity can use to determine whether a vaccine uses an aborted fetal cell line.

1. mRNA vaccines do not use cells. They are free from using aborted fetal cells. However, mRNA vaccines are unproven, to date, in creating a successful FDA-approved vaccine.


2. DNA vaccines do not use cells. They, too, are free from using aborted fetal cells. However, like mRNA vaccines, they are unproven.

3. Adenovirus-vector vaccines use aborted fetal cells. These vaccines typically use the HEK293 cell line. In some cases, the vaccine is manufactured with a PER.C6 cell line. To date, there are very few adenovirus-vector vaccines that have been FDA-approved.

4. Subunit vaccines are produced by manufacturing a viral protein. These vaccines require either a mammalian or human cell line. Typically, HEK293 or PER.C6 are used to produce a human protein. Typically, subunit vaccines illicit weak immune responses and generally require boosters.

5. Whole killed vaccine is a virus produced from a cell line and then killed with a chemical agent. This type of vaccine may or may not require the use of an aborted fetal cell line. In general, whole killed vaccines illicit greater immune response than subunit vaccines, but typically require an adjuvant to boost the immune response.

6. Live attenuated vaccine is a live virus that has been weakened to avoid causing the infection. This type of vaccine is historically the gold standard for producing a vaccine. Live attenuated vaccines provide an almost immediate immune response that is life long. This type of vaccine has frequently used aborted fetal cell lines (e.g. MMR vaccine). Live attenuated vaccines carry a potential risk of reverting back to an infectious virus.

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