When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available for the public? Will there be a vaccine that does not use an aborted fetal cell?
By Alan Moy, MD
I am often asked this question. As of this date, I cannot predict whether a vaccine against COVID-19 will work much less be available. Many of the medical experts claim that a vaccine could be ready within 12-18 months. Furthermore, this time frame could be overly optimistic. Why? Academia and the pharmaceutical industry were not able to develop a vaccine after the SARS outbreak in 2002 and the MERS outbreak in 2012. Vaccine technology since 2012 has only modestly improved. According to my search on the National Institute of Health's grant database (NIH Reporter), there was only 5 million dollars per year directed towards coronavirus vaccine research-clearly not enough. Some companies will be testing vaccines that use RNA and DNA, but there has yet to be an FDA approved vaccine based on this approach. Nucleic acid vaccines produce weak initial immune responses and theoretically will require boosters
(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5475249). Johnson and Johnson's vaccine is based on adenovirus vectors that uses an aborted fetal cell line (PER.C6) (https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-announces-a-lead-vaccin...). Adenovirus vector vaccines have been around for decades and failed to produce a vaccine against HIV (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2234358) and has yet to produce a vaccine against seasonal influenza. The vaccine also may not work if an individual has established immunity against adenovirus
(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4682971), which is one of the causes of the common cold. This leaves the only remaining vaccine option based on producing a recombinant spike protein. A recombinant spike protein requires a cell, and the preferred cells of choice are human. The only human cells that the pharmaceutical industry currently uses are HEK293 and PER.C6, both derived from abortion. If these aborted fetal cells produce a sufficient immune response, and these vaccines are the only available choices, this will create moral challenges for some. In 2005, the Vatican approved the use of vaccines that used a cell line from abortion, but allowed doctors and patients to exercise their moral conscience to refuse such a vaccine. Yet, the Vatican also stated that vaccines derived from ethical cell lines must be developed.