A recurring conversation

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in the comments boxes over at A Saintly Salmagundi. It started with a bit about pharmacists and conscience clauses and evolved into a discussion of immunization. I put a lot of work into my comment and thought that I would also post it here.
If we accept the use of vaccines produced through immoral research on aborted fetal cell tissue, what moral standing can we possibly have to object to embryonic stem cell research or (later on, if any therapies actually develop) to the use of such therapies?

Also, mass immunization is not innocuous. It is an epidemiological herd concept idea where the risks to a small percentage of the population (and kids as well as adults have died or been damaged for life from vaccines of all sorts) is considered preferable to the large numbers of death and disability from the disease in its wild state. What is interesting to note is that other interventions rather than vaccinations may have been responsible for the decreases in deaths from infectious diseases. Sanitation has pretty well eliminated cholera and typhoid from the civilized world, not the vaccines (which are still available but not widely used due to the nasty side effects)

I personally have chosen to be immunized and my children are also immunized - though if I had been in possession of accurate information at the time I would probably have altered some of the timing and choices for the vaccines. I think that there is a need for true informed consent - and maybe then we could also have avoided the need for a federal vaccine liability fund (paid for by you and me folks, to compensate parents whose kids were damaged by vaccine side effects).

Anyhow - references below taken from the Children of God for Life Web site and verified by me in the medical journals.

On vaccine production:
Here are some excerpts from medical journals which provided specifics about the cell cultures for the Rubella vaccine:

Gamma Globulin Prophylaxis; Inactivated Rubella Virus; Production and Biological Control of Live Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines ; Amer J Dis Child Vol 118 Aug 1969

Dr. K McCarthy: It seems to me that there are two things that we worry about in regards to WI-38 cell substrate. First of all, presence of extraneous viral agents; secondly, the possibility of there being human genetic material passed over into the vaccine. I wonder if there is any information about the reasons for aborting that particular embryo that gave rise to WI-38; and if it was from a family, whether we have any information about siblings from the family and whether they are normal?

Dr.S Plotkin, Philadelphia: I should like to answer Dr. McCarthy's question. This fetus was chosen by Dr. Sven Gard, specifically for this purpose. Both parents are known, and unfortunately for the story, they are married to each other, still alive and well, and living in Stockholm, presumably. The abortion was done because they felt they had too many children. There were no familial diseases in the history of either parent, and no history of cancer specifically in the families; I believe this answers Dr. McCarthy's question.

Attenuation Of RA 27/3 Rubella Virus in WI-38 Human Diploid Cells; Amer J Dis Child vol 118 Aug 1969

Explant cultures were made of the dissected organs of a particular fetus aborted because of rubella, the 27th in our series of fetuses aborted during the 1964 epidemic. The third explant, which happened to be from kidney, was selected arbitrarily for further study.

Studies of Immunization With Living Rubella Virus ; Arch J Dis Child vol 110 Oct 1965

"This fetus was from a 25-year-old mother exposed to rubella 8 days after last menstrual period. 16 days later she developed rubella. The fetus was surgically aborted 17 days after maternal illness and dissected immediately. Explants from several organs were cultured and successful cell growth was achieved from lung, skin, and kidney. It was then grown on WI-38. This new vaccine was tested on orphans in Philadelphia".
on cell lines (from the Coriell Cell repository http://locus.umdnj.edu
( the cell line for a particular vaccine is listed in the PDR most of the time)
The MRC-5 cell line was developed in September 1966 from lung tissue taken from a 14 week fetus aborted for psychiatric reason from a 27 year old physically healthy woman. The cell morphology is fibroblast-like. The karyotype is 46,XY; normal diploid male. Cumulative population doublings to senescence is 42-48. G6PD isoenzyme is type B.
The WI-38 cell line was developed in July 1962 from lung tissue taken from a therapeutically aborted fetus of about 3 months gestational age. Cells released by trypsin digestion of the lung tissue were used for the primary culture. The cell morphology is fibroblast-like. The karyotype is 46,XX; normal diploid female. A maximum lifespan of 50 population doublings for this culture was obtained at the Repository. A thymidine labelling index of 86% was obtained after recovery. G6PD is isoenzyme type B. This culture of WI-38 is an expansion from passage 9 frozen cells obtained from the submitter.


Thank you for this post. I have been trying to find accurate info regarding vaccines for a long time. Currently my first two kids had some of them, but due to the constant change in reccommendations between children, I quit. Since my oldest was born 11 years ago, the Hep B shot, DPT, Polio, and rotovirus shots were all changed or halted. This sounds like research to me. But, when I try to find accurate info, both sides just try to use fear to persuade. You're either negelegent and will watch your child die from a preventable disease if you don't vaccinate, or you'll end up with a disabled child with autoimmune diseases if you do. Your post was quite helpful, thankyou.

I didn't actually finish reading your post, but I plan to!

What do we do, 20 or 30 years down the line, after they've developed some marvelous cures using embryonic stem cells? Do we refuse the treatment and die (or live with our disability)? What if we have to make the choice for a child or other loved one? And is this logic the same as we'd use for the vaccination issue or is there some nuance that makes it different?

Alicia, as much blog space as you can spend on this would be appreciated! You've got expertise in both the moral aspect and the medical information...something lacking in just about all the others I've discussed this with.

What do you think of the theory that all these vaccines in children is causing auto-immune troubles later in life?


But, when I try to find accurate info, both sides just try to use fear to persuade. You're either negelegent and will watch your child die from a preventable disease if you don't vaccinate, or you'll end up with a disabled child with autoimmune diseases if you do.

Nod, nod, nod...

I'm in the middle of this decision because my 3yo finally got the "untainted" measles & mumps vaxes, separately, but there is no "untainted" rubella. Not sure what to do next, though there is no pressure from the pediatrician on it.

And I admit I couldn't read this whole post either. I was actually nursing my 8mo down after a very late arrival back from an out-of-town trip...

As far as I understand it, the Rubella vaccine is to protect your child when she grows to childbearing age--to protect your grandchildren really. But there is some evidence (which I unfortunately don't have at my elbow) that the vaccine wears off some of the time. So your daughter might need another dose of vaccine around childbearing age anyway. One thing you could do is leave the choice to her and explain what your concerns are. Who knows what kinds of vaccines will be around in another two decades?

I agree there isn't enough reasoned comment on this--we had a ped. (not even a ped we were considering, just the head of our ped unit) give us a long harangue and end by telling us she *couldn't treat us* because we admitted in a prenatal interview that we were *thinking* about *delaying* vaccination, and *thinking* about doing it on a slightly different schedule. No science came out of her mouth (seems we were just "dumb parents") but she had plenty of horror stories. Of course this all came up because we said in the first place that we were having a home birth. She went down the lists of "weirdo alternative" things parents might choose to do, and boy was she hitting all the things we'd been researching :)

If I might respond to Sandy's comment - to date, NO diseases or disorders have been cured using embryonic stem cells; it's still in the animal testing stage. However, there have been several breakthroughs using adult stem cells - from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. It seems that the ethically responsible thing to do would be to focus on non-embryonic stem cell research so the question of "do we kill embryos to save other lives" never has to come into play.

Just my $.02.

You get to make these choiced for your children now, but when faced with international travel they will have to vaccinate.

This argument of not vaccinating seems to only occur in nice, heathly, polio and small pox free countries. Vaccines came about because of mass epidemic diseases that (especially now) have robbed people of health, longevity, of life and use of limbs. Would you really (say if you lived in Africa) honestly deny your child a polio vaccine if they faced a real chance of getting it? I doubt it. It isn't fear mongering to say that as a gowing percentage of parents choose not to vaccinate because 20 years ago a stem cell line was used (and they are certainly not producing current vaccines from stem cells . . . it's like the sour dough starter you only make it fresh once and then you keep replenishing it by simply adding flour . . . no more yeast is ever added) and at some point you will have a small, but significant portion of the population who are vunerable to diseases that haven't been seen in this country in decades. Those people will in turn endanger those of us who do vaccinate. If fear mongering is simply pointing out trends and their outcomes . . .well, that's silly.

It's sort of like leaving your keys in you car with engine running . . . it might not get stolen today, but your chances are much higher than those of us who turn off the car and lock the door.

Thanks for the post. Very enlightening. I'm also feeling quite ashamed for not paying closer attention to the shots my children have already received. I'll have to check into this further.

Also, a couple years ago my children attended daycare part-time and the provider required a list of all shots my kids had received. Apparantly, they couldn't attend a state-run daycare (either in-home or center) without "up to date shots".

"If we accept the use of vaccines produced through immoral research on aborted fetal cell tissue, what moral standing can we possibly have to object to embryonic stem cell research or (later on, if any therapies actually develop) to the use of such therapies?"

Alicia, I don't think that's right. Especially the ESC research itself - and almost certainly use of such therapies as might result (if any do) - could well (I think, does) involve a different type of cooperation with evil than does use of vaccines containing viruses that were propagated in cell cultures derived from cells from aborted babies. And the distinction between different types of cooperation with evil is a most significant moral distinction.

I think it's a big mistake to speak of "tainted" vaccines, and/or to liken the vaccine question to the ESC question.


In response to Lauren;

This has nothing to do with stem cells. The tainted vaccines is made from *cell lines* derived from aborted fetuses. That means the scientists take an organ (like a lung or kidney) from an aborted fetus, isolate some cells from it, give them nutrients to keep them alive and multiplying in vitro for decades on end, and use *that* as a base from which to prepare the vaccine.

So the Rubella vaccine is being produced today from cells harvested from a fetus killed over forty years ago.

And as for future vaccines being made from cell lines, the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine was developed from a fetal cell line during the 1990's, and scientists are currently working on new smallpox, flu, HIV and ebola vaccines from fetal cell lines.

On this page:


you can find the names of vaccines derived from fetal cell lines, along with the "names" of those lines. The one named PER C6 is relatively new, so yes, new fetal cell lines are being produced from more recently-aborted fetuses.

You will also find on that page numerous alternative vaccines derived from morally acceptable sources. One of these is a polio vaccine, so one does not have to forgo the polio shot for moral concerns; just used the morally-acceptable IPOL rather than Poliovax.

The only vaccines currently required for US children which don't have a morally-acceptable alternative are Chickenpox and Rubella (though the Children of God for Life are working on making an acceptable Rubella vaccine from Japan available in the US).

In Jesu et Maria,

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