human diploid cells, aborted fetuses

Derived from normal lung tissue of a 14-week-old male fetus by J. P. Jacobs in September 1966 (Nature 227: 168-170, 1970), the MRC-5 cell line was established in a growth medium consisting of Earle’s Basal Medium in Earle’s balanced salt solution supplemented with 10% calf (bovine) serum. The MRC-5 cell strain (like the WI-38 cell line) is susceptible to a wide range of human viruses.

Viral vaccines are often cultured on aborted fetal tissue. There are several types of fetal cells in which the virus is grown: MRC5, WI-38, WI-26 VA4, RA273, PER C and HEK 293. This has raised concerns, with reports of some individuals with religious objections to abortion refusing vaccination because they feel this makes them complicit with the original act of abortion.

Some deem it unethical to use vaccines from fetal cell lines for the following reasons:

  1. If abortion is immoral then profiting from it must also be immoral.
  2. The unborn child was unable to give consent for its body parts to be used, so it is therefore disrespectful to the dead.
  3. The argument that “the fetal tissues would just go to waste if they were not used” was not accepted at the Nuremberg trials of scientists who used body parts from concentration camp victims. This abuse of the child’s body only compounds the injustice of the original abortion, even if the vaccine producers were in no way connected to the abortion.
  4. Use of this vaccine implies acceptance of the legality of abortion, and does nothing to discourage the use of fetal parts or cell lines in vaccine manufacture or other branches of medicine.