By Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director, Children of God for Life
When articles like “What Does the Catholic Church Teach about Vaccines” . . . appear in what is supposed to be valid Catholic news, mass confusion abounds and false information becomes viral on social media and worse, in the chanceries of some dioceses. In an e-mail to Catholic News Agency dated May 10, 2019, we asked they correct their errors and publish the truth. Since they have not responded, we will because it is important that the facts are reported.
So, let’s look at the glaring errors the unnamed author of the article puts out. The problems begin with their statement that,
“One reason that some people decline the measles vaccine in particular has to do with the fact that it was developed from cell lines descending from aborted fetal tissue.”1
This is completely false. It is rubella, not measles that is currently produced using aborted fetal material in both the virus, known as RA273, and in the cell line WI-38 which is used to cultivate the virus. The rubella vaccine is combined with measles and mumps in the MMR.
As for the measles outbreaks, it is no different now than it was in 2014 with the Disney outbreak’s 667 cases. In both situations, one needs to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Merck, the sole producer of MMR in the United States and not the parents who are exercising religious exemptions.
Because until 2009, Merck provided the separate vaccines for measles (Attenuvax) and mumps (Mumpsvax) which are morally produced using chicken eggs. Despite massive public outcry, Merck refused to continue supplying separate vaccines, stating it was not profitable to do so. This when their own financial records showed over $10 million in sales for the separate doses that year.
So exactly what do those symbolic letters and numbers RA273 and WI-38 in the MMR vaccine actually stand for? Let’s decipher what was really going on.
During the rubella epidemic of 1964, doctors in Philadelphia began advising pregnant women who contracted rubella to abort their babies due to fear of Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) which can affect the unborn child. The aborted babies were immediately sent to the science labs of Dr. Stanley Plotkin who isolated the virus RA273, translated as: R=Rubella, A=Abortion, 27=27th aborted baby, 3=3rd tissue explanted that contained the live rubella virus.2
And although he had successfully isolated the virus that would eventually be used in the rubella vaccine on the market today, it didn’t stop there. In subsequent research papers Dr. Plotkin noted another 40 aborted babies were dissected to obtain further virus samples.3 This means there were at least 67 babies electively aborted just to obtain the virus for the rubella vaccine. And what about that WI-38 cell line used to culture the virus? Dr. Leonard Hayflick graphically describes his research and the aborted babies that were shipped from Sweden to his labs at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia in several research papers.4,5 WI-38 translates as Wistar Institute, specimen number 38.
Before perfecting his work there were 32 elective abortions to produce the WI-38 cell line. In six of the abortions, multiple organs were dissected and numbered, hence the difference between the number of abortions (32) and the WI-38 designation. That’s 99 elective abortions for the rubella vaccine alone.
Compare this to what the author of the article stated—that there were “two abortions performed in 1960s from which the cells lines were developed.” Unfortunately, this is probably one of the biggest falsehoods that has been propagated on an unsuspecting American public for decades!
In addition, there are several more cell lines from hundreds more abortions that are used in vaccines and medicines such as MRC-5,6 WI-26 and WI-44,7 IMR-90,8 IMR-91,9 HEK-293,10 Lambda hE.1,11 PER C6,12 and in 2015, WALVAX 2.13 This baby was chosen from 9 abortions in China as they were trying to replicate WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines for their own vaccines. Like IMR-90 and IMR-91, scientists deliberately chose to use aborted babies that would match the gestation age and tissue type (lung tissue) to replace the cell lines which were depleting. They could have chosen a moral cell line as Japan did, but they chose not to do so.
If that was not bad enough, the horror goes much deeper as described in the article “Forsaking God for the Sake of Science.” Exposed are the forced sterilizations and forced abortions that took place in the early 1900s under the Eugenic Sterilization Act, during which noted polio scientists describe their research using aborted babies.14
In just one such research paper, Drs. Thicke, Duncan, Wood and Rhodes graphically describe their work: “
Human embryos of two and one-half to five months gestation were obtained from the gynaecological department of the Toronto General Hospital. They were placed in a sterile container and promptly transported to the virus laboratory of the adjacent Hospital for Sick Children. No macerated specimens were used and in many of the embryos the heart was still beating at the time of receipt in the virus laboratory.”15
Deplorable, despicable and completely unnecessary because in all research documents from 1936 -1964, from polio to rubella, scientists noted there were several other moral sources that could be used as well.
Continuing with the problems in the May 6th article, the author states that “none of these cells are in the vaccines themselves,” but this too is completely false. All one has to do is read the manufacturer’s own package insert under “Ingredients” or “Description.” For example, the Varivax (chickenpox) vaccine literature clearly states,
“The product also contains residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein.”16
Next, the writer lays out the misleading claim that the Pontifical Academy for Life “has concluded that it is both morally permissible and morally responsible for Catholics to use these vaccines.” That is a bit deceitful because the 2005 document from the PAFL, “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses,” goes much deeper than that. The Academy expressed the right of parents to use or abstain from aborted fetal vaccines
“if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience.”
The central concern in their document was for pregnant women and the possible transmission of rubella to her unborn child.17
So let’s look at the situation in the US where according to the CDC, rubella has been eliminated since 2002 with less than 10 cases per year, none of which were native and all were self-contained, meaning no one else was infected.18 Women are tested for rubella immunity at their first prenatal checkup and if they are not immune, Immune Globulin (IG) may be used to prevent rubella. IG is not harmful to the woman or her unborn child and provides protection through the first trimester when CRS could harm an unborn child.
Additionally, one might ask: “What if the pregnant woman refuses aborted fetal cell line vaccines for religious reasons? Should that trump the right of someone else who is abstaining?” The answer of course, is no.
It is important to keep in mind that the PAFL document was written for the entire world—not just the US. In some countries, rubella and CRS are still a problem. However, there is virtually no risk currently anywhere in the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, or South America nor has there been any risk for over sixteen years in the US.19 “Significant risk,” “considerable danger,” and “grave inconvenience” do not exist in the US.
Unfortunately, the article then makes the disingenuous assertion that “science does not substantiate claims that vaccines pose a significant threat.” Actually, science and reality say otherwise.
Under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, the Federal Government has paid out nearly $4 billion dollars to over 6,500 families of vaccine injured children, including 1,301 deaths.20 It is important to understand that these numbers represent only those that were both filed in vaccine court and compensated. The number of adverse reactions are reported separately in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) which receives over 10,000 reports annually; about 15% are serious.21
In conclusion, in 2015 Planned Parenthood boldly defended abortion based on the use of the fetal cell lines in vaccines as “life-saving research.” That too was false news because there have always been moral alternatives for all childhood vaccines except chickenpox. Japan has moral measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis-A vaccines. And incredibly, many parents determined to stand by their moral convictions have traveled there to get their children vaccinated. Certainly, this is not an option for many who cannot afford to do that.
But when news agencies and bioethicists cling to outdated and false information, our bishops and other Catholic leaders are misled. And worse, the public is lulled into a tacit approval of the status quo since they are told it’s perfectly okay to use the vaccines. If there is no demand for moral alternatives, as the PAFL instructed the faithful to do, there will never be a reason for the industry to change.
So what does the Catholic Church really teach? The Catechism contains the tenets of our faith and the duty to adhere to these teachings regarding conscience states:
1776 Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths. (1954)
1777 Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
Conscience is a law of the mind; yet Christians would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . Conscience is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.
1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection. Return to your conscience, question it. . . . Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.
1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it. Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment.
We are also taught through the teachings of papal encyclicals that conscience is the Divine Law which is inscribed into the heart and soul of man by God. For example:
“The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason, ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin. . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and freedom must be submitted.” (Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum, 597)
“On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of divine law. He is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his last end. Therefore he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. Acts of this kind cannot be commanded or forbidden by any merely human authority.” (Dignitatis Humanae, Pope Paul VI, 1965)
Synod of Bishops’ address to the United Nations October 2, 1979:
“In accordance with their dignity, all human beings, because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and, therefore, bearing a personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and to direct their whole lives in accordance with its demands” (Dignitatis Humanae, 2). “The practice of religion by its very nature consists primarily of those voluntary and free internal acts of conscience by which a human being directly sets his course towards God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.”
Pope Paul VI, 1965 Gaudium et Spes: “For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the Divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain ‘under the control of his own decisions, so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man’s dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure.’”
Fourth Lateran Council: “The Divine Law,” says Cardinal Gousset, “is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the Fourth Lateran council says, ‘Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, aedificat ad gehennam.’” [“Whatever is done in opposition to conscience is conducive to damnation.”]
In consideration of the despicable history of aborted fetal research, the massive number of abortions involved, and the continued use of the new and existing cell lines in aborted fetal research and the financial incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to continue these practices, certainly any parent who wishes to abstain for religious reasoning would be consistent with Church teaching.
Dr. Jozef Zalot, who was mentioned in the article, was rightfully concerned about removing parental moral conscience rights to abstain. This is especially important in light of the fact that the protection of this sacred right has been at the top of our Catholic healthcare and the bishops’ concerns for many years. More than ever, we need Catholic and other Christian pro-life leaders to unite worldwide, to protect parental and physicians’ rights, to put pressure on the industry and put an end to this injustice. Stay tuned. At Children of God for Life we intend to do just that!
Debi Vinnedge is the executive director of Children of God for Life.
2. Plotkin et al, Attenuation of RA 2713 “Rubella Virus in WI-38 Human Diploid Cell,” American Journal of Diseases of Children, Vol. 118, pp 178-179, August 1969.
3. Chang TH, Moorhead PS, Boue JG, Plotkin SA, Hoskins JM. Chromosome studies of human cells infected in utero and in vitro with rubella virus. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1966 May;122(1):236-43.
4. L. Hayflick and P.S. Moorhead, “The Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cell Strains,” Experimental Cell Research Vol 25, pp 585-621, 1961.
5. L. Hayflick, “The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains,” Experimental Cell Research, Vol 37, pp 614-636 1964.
6. Jacobs et al, Nature, Vol 227, pp 168 -170, 1970 Characteristics of a human diploid cell designated MRC-5.
7. Hayflick L, Plotkin SA, Norton TW, Koprowski H. Preparation of poliovirus vaccines in a human fetal diploid cell strain. Am J Hyg. 1962 Mar;75:240-58.
10. wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20170404095429/ https://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/01/agenda/3750a1.htm
12. wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20170404095429/ fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/01/agenda/3750a1.htm
15. Joan C. Thicke, Darline Duncan, William Wood, A. E. Franklin and A. J. Rhodes; Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Virus in Tissue Culture; Growth of the Lansing Strain in Human Embryonic Tissue, Canadian Journal of Medical Science, Vol. 30, pg 231-245.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at cogforlife.org/2019/05/20/vaccinetruth/.