By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

OTTAWA, October 27, 2009 ( – The swine flu vaccine approved for use in Canada by the country's federal drug regulator does not use aborted fetal cell lines in its manufacture.

The vaccine is produced by GlaxoSmithKline under the trade name Arepanrix, and is made with chick embryos.

Health Canada's Arepanrix product information leaflet says the “H1N1 antigen is prepared from virus grown in the allantoic cavity of embryonated hen's eggs.”

This is welcome news for those considering the swine flu shot. The information is corroborated by evidence gathered by Children of God for Life, a pro-life group specializing in vaccine information, that shows that none of the US H1N1 vaccines are produced using aborted fetal cell lines.

“We are pleased that the pharmaceutical companies have chosen these (ethical) cell lines for this year's H1N1 vaccines,” stated Executive Director Debi Vinnedge in a press release. “There are enough concerns about public health and safety without compounding the problems with moral issues.”

She noted that there are two methods of possibly producing flu and H1N1 vaccines: chick embryo or cell culture. Chick embryo is the standard method that has been used to produce all flu vaccines for several years. The problem with this method is that every time a new batch of vaccines is needed, fresh eggs must be used, making it more difficult to get vaccines to the market in a timely manner for the flu season each year.

Because of this, the pharmaceutical industry has been working on a method that would speed development and processing time by using an established cell culture.

Unlike chick embryo, cell lines are developed, FDA approved and then frozen for future use so production time is considerably shorter. Several pharmaceutical companies such as Medimmune, Protein Science and Novavax are developing these future flu vaccines using a morally neutral cell culture, such as MDCK or insect cells. 

But some manufacturers like Sanofi Pasteur and Vaxin are developing their cell culture vaccines using the aborted fetal cell line, PER C6.

“It is completely unnecessary to use aborted fetal cell lines,” said Vinnedge. “If these companies truly cared about the health of the public they would take into consideration the moral concerns of millions of families who are going to refuse their products.”

Although the Canadian H1N1 vaccine has Health Canada approval, concern over the safety of the shot has been raised again.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that Health Canada approved this country's H1N1 vaccine “without evaluating its safety and effectiveness on a single Canadian.”

The report says the pandemic vaccine was approved based on results from a small clinical trial in Belgium that involved only 130 healthy adults, aged 18 to 60, who were inoculated with the same version of Canada's vaccine, which is produced by GlaxoSmithKline in Ste-Foy, Quebec, but which was actually manufactured by GSK in Germany.

“Data from a clinical trial conducted in Belgium, using the same version of the vaccine produced by GSK in Dresden, Germany, was reviewed, as was initial safety data from European and Japanese studies using the Quebec-produced vaccine Arepanrix,” Health Canada spokeswoman Christelle Legault told the Citizen.

Pauline Tam of the Citizen has called on Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq “to make public the medical evidence used to determine the safety of the H1N1 vaccine to reassure Canadians that no short cuts were taken in the race to test and produce the pandemic flu shot.”


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