• Vaccine Safety

A patient has expressed concern that some vaccines have been produced in fetal tissue. How can I address this concern?

The production of a few vaccines, including those for varicella, rubella, hepatitis A, and one of the COVID-19 vaccines (Janssen, Johnson & Johnson) involves growing the viruses in human cell culture. Two human cell lines provide the cell cultures needed for producing vaccines; these lines were developed from two legally aborted fetuses in the 1960s. These cell lines are maintained to have an indefinite life span. No fetal tissue has been added since the cell lines were originally created.

Some parents are concerned about this issue because of misinformation they have encountered on the Internet. Two such untrue statements are that ongoing abortions are needed to manufacture vaccines and vaccines are contaminated with fetal tissue.

Parents can read the facts and several thought-provoking articles about this issue at www.immunize.org/talking-about-vaccines/religious-concerns.asp and then make an informed decision.

A Catholic Pontifical Academy for Life statement that Catholic parents have no general obligation to refuse permission for these vaccines is summarized at www.immunize.org/talking-about-vaccines/vaticandocument.htm.

Last reviewed: August 31, 2022

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