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Introductory note from LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen 

The debate around the ethics of taking the COVID “vaccines” has created understandable divisions among many in the Catholic Church, even among what I would consider the very best Catholics. With this debate, and that around Pope Francis, for the first time in my life, I can understand how saints in the past found themselves on different sides of major debates such as that of the question of the identity of the Pope when more than one claimed the title. 

However, I have been saddened to see that the same uncharitable tactics used in secular debates are employed in the debates among good Catholics. In a very highly respected Italian, traditional Catholic publication called Corrispondenza Romana, I was startled to see an article headlined COVID-19 Vaccines: Scientific Truths and Fake News. The article, authored by Emmanuele Barbieri, took issue with vaccine researcher Pamela Acker and also a presentation of mine presenting evidence of the abortion-tainted nature of vaccines from the godfather of vaccines Dr. Stanley Plotkin. 

While I welcome debate, even hard debate, on contentious matters, I was stunned to see the ‘fake news’ accusation in the headline, but I was even more taken aback to see that in the very first paragraph the author called into question the motives of those who suggest the immorality of COVID “vaccinations.” Barbieri says in the first paragraph that claims about the immorality of the COVID shots “have repeatedly been debunked, so it appears legitimate to doubt that those who keep fostering them are in good faith.” 

While Barbieri employs straw man arguments and other fallacies in his article, his most serious error is asserting that vaccine researcher Pamela Acker is unqualified to comment on vaccines. “Pamela Acker is an American graduate in biology, with no specific expertise,” he posits. Adding insult to injury, Barbieri continues: “Maintaining she is a qualified expert in biology would be like passing off a law school graduate as an experienced lawyer.” 

LifeSiteNews asked Pamela Acker to respond to Barbieri’s article in Corrispondenza Romana and presents below both her response and also an English translation of Barbieri’s article. I would encourage any interested in the scientific facts and ethics of the COVID “vaccination” to read the following in depth analysis.

April 14, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — I have been asked several times to respond to a recent article by Emmanuele Barbieri, titled, “COVID-19 Vaccines: Scientific Truths and Fake News.” I find it disappointing that such an article is gaining traction among reasonable people, as it begins with an ad hominem fallacy, ends by poisoning the well, and is littered with straw-man arguments and outright errors. The tone is both an appeal to emotion and an appeal to force, as the author suggests — or even outright states — throughout his argument that those who disagree with him are either inept or deceitful. In all of this, he ignores the reality of the link between abortion and biomedical science — which is clearly documented by the researchers themselves — and contributes to the growing confusion surrounding the issue of the current coronavirus vaccine, which is an unethical experimental technology that is being foisted upon the population at a scale that would have been unbelievable only a year ago. 

Unfortunately, this rebuttal will be significantly longer than the original article — as it always takes more words to fully establish a case than to scribble off a diatribe.

Problems from the outset

Despite its promising title and purported attempt to make clear the difference between actual science and “fake news,” Barbieri’s article contains some profoundly incorrect statements about the history of the aborted fetal cell lines and about the science behind them, including:

  • The evidence for c-section abortions comes primarily from video clips shot by David Daleiden; in reality, it comes from the scientific literature [1, 2, 3], specifically several research papers describing the development of polio vaccines

  • Experimentation on fetal tissue was forbidden prior to the legalization of abortion; in reality, such experimentation was done as early as the 1930s [1] and there were even international suppliers of aborted fetal tissue (specifically the Karolinska Institute) throughout the 1950-70s that continue to supply aborted fetal tissue for research up to the present day.

  • No experimentation on fetal tissue was done with the intention of producing vaccines; in reality, the development of the polio vaccine fueled research into aborted fetal cell lines [1, 2, 3], and the rubella vaccine [4] was produced using virus obtained from aborted fetuses instead of simply using a nasal swab from an infected child (as was done in Japan). There is indeed a long history of complicity between vaccines and abortion.

  • The amount of residual fetal DNA in vaccines is negligible, according to three hypothetical statistical studies (with the same primary author); in reality, experimental data shows that the amount and size of fetal DNA present in vaccines poses a real problem, and can be up to 200 times the safety limit established by the World Health Organization.[5]

Vaccine research and a career derailed by aborted fetal cells

Although this article is primarily about aborted fetal research and vaccines, it seems prudent to address the fact that Barbieri begins his commentary by dismissing me as having “no specific expertise” and therefore being unqualified to comment on vaccines. His argument primarily rests on the fact that I have no research publications. There is a very simple and sound reason that I have published in no research journals — the work that I did in vaccine development was for an HIV vaccine that used HEK-293 cell lines as part of the project. My own aspect of the project was conducted in ethical cell lines (Chinese hamster, mouse, and a human cancer cell line) and involved researching and developing ways to use short signaling peptides to target the vaccine vehicle — which was actually a viral vector, similar technology to that being employed by both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines — to be directly picked up by dendritic cells, one of the most important cellular players involved in initiating good immune response. I left the lab I was working in after ten months when I discovered that the antigens that would be used in the final vaccine product were being produced in aborted fetal cells — a decision that was in accord with the duties of the researcher outlined in Dignitas Personae, specifically paragraphs 34 and 35. Had I been published as an author on any of the relevant papers (all of which are available online at Dr. Venigalla Rao’s publications page [6]), my credibility would subsequently have been damaged by my name being directly linked in the scientific literature with aborted fetal cells. 

Regarding Barbieri’s comments on my book, I will quote him in full below (many thanks to an Italian friend who provided a translation of his article): 

More in detail, the only one known publication by Pamela Acker — Vaccination: A Catholic Perspective, published by the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation — deals with the COVID-19 vaccine issue almost incidentally (pp. 73-77, i.e. 5 out of 85 pages); it actually aims at promoting rejection of any possible kind of vaccination. The thesis that the book tries to prove (“Good Health”, pp. 80-83) is that all vaccines are harmful to people’s health, and should be replaced by outdoor exercise, eating healthy food, and natural remedies. Pamela Acker just realized that the discoveries made by scientists as Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, or Robert Koch were never beneficial to mankind; she wants to persuade her readers that they all wasted their time, but fails to provide any substantial evidence to back such a bold claim.

The claim that my thesis is that all vaccines should be replaced by exercise, healthy food, and natural remedies is tenuous at best (I even warn the good Catholic reader to be wary of certain natural remedies) and is an oversimplification of the actual thesis, which is that the idea of treating disease with an ineffective, artificial intervention — before we’re even exposed to the pathogen — needs to be replaced with an appropriate understanding of the immune system and how to support it in its God-given design to protect us against a wide variety of disease exposures, not just those diseases against which we commonly vaccinate. Distinctions are important — the case that Barbieri claims I make is much easier to dismiss than the case I actually make.

As evidence, I offer 85 pages of arguments with 379 footnotes, which include, among other important concepts, the following facts:

  • Jenner’s experiments were anecdotal in nature, led to an increase in blood-borne disease incidence among the vaccinated, and resulted in the untimely death of the original two vaccinees (his son and the neighbor boy). Both died from tuberculosis, which was most likely transmitted to them during the vaccination process.

  • The decline in disease mortality that was observed when vaccination began has much more to do with sanitation and improved living conditions than any medical intervention of the time.

  • The rise to prominence of the antibody hypothesis was based on flawed experiments with two types of pathogens that behave quite differently from everything else that we now vaccinate against.

  • Vaccines can, and do, fail — with frequencies that make herd immunity through vaccination theoretically impossible.

  • Vaccines set off an inappropriate immune activation chain that leads to the activation of auto-reactive cells. In some individuals, this will develop into full-blown autoimmune disease. In others, a similar process can result in the development of life-long allergic reactions when the vaccine activates immune cells against harmless substances.

  • All vaccines have contraindications — conditions that may make them life-threatening in particular individuals — which are not screened for prior to administration of routine childhood vaccinations.

  • Mass vaccination causes strain replacement (a phenomenon analogous to antibiotic resistance in bacteria) and can shift the susceptibility of the population into age ranges that do not tolerate the disease well.

  • Going through the process of being infected with normal childhood diseases and mounting a normal immune response to them may be protective against development of chronic disease later in life, including autoimmunity and cancer.

In short, induction of the immune response by vaccination is artificial, temporary, and inferior to natural immunity, and for a growing number of individuals it is positively unsafe. The immune system is vastly more complex than anything we understood in the 1800s, and involves molecules and processes that the original developers and purveyors of vaccines could never have imagined. Thus, it makes little sense to continue to indiscriminately employ an archaic medical intervention that was developed in absolute ignorance of this astounding intricacy. 

The connection between abortion and vaccines

Now let us turn to the real issue at hand — what is the nature of the connection between abortion and the vaccine industry, in particular as it is played out in the current coronavirus vaccines? And why does it matter?

The thesis of Barbieri’s article seems to be not only that aborted fetal vaccines, including the recently developed coronavirus vaccines, are ethical and licit for use by Catholics, but also that those who would choose to fight the war against abortion on the front of suppressing biomedical research with fetal tissue are misguided. I will address the former contention first, which seems to rest on two main premises (when we dismiss the errors mentioned earlier in this article): that the abortions that resulted in the tissue for the cell lines were not obtained for the purpose of developing the vaccine, and that the vaccines themselves do not contain any residual fetal cells or any biological material of concern. 

The cell lines that are currently being employed in COVID-19 vaccine development include HEK-293 and PER C6.[7] Barbieri is correct that neither cell line was made specifically for vaccines: HEK-293 was produced for basic research purposes, and PER C6 was produced to grow adenovirus vectors.[8] However, this latter cell line, which was developed in 1995, was indeed produced specifically with biomedical research in mind. In the words of Dr. Van Der Eb, “PER C6 was made just for pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus vectors.” [9] These are the same vectors that Johnson & Johnson is using to develop their COVID-19 vaccine, which is being produced in PER C6. It would appear that the connection is not as remote as some would like us to think.

However, even if both cell lines were produced without the intention of being used in drug or vaccine development, the statement of the Church in Dignitas Personae is clear regarding the illicitness of the abortion-tainted cell lines: 

A different situation is created when researchers use “biological material” of illicit origin which has been produced apart from their research center or which has been obtained commercially. The Instruction Donum vitae formulated the general principle which must be observed in these cases: “The corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings. In particular, they cannot be subjected to mutilation or to autopsies if their death has not yet been verified and without the consent of the parents or of the mother. Furthermore, the moral requirements must be safeguarded that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal be avoided.” [10]

In this regard, the criterion of independence as it has been formulated by some ethics committees is not sufficient. According to this criterion, the use of “biological material” of illicit origin would be ethically permissible provided there is a clear separation between those who, on the one hand, produce, freeze and cause the death of embryos and, on the other, the researchers involved in scientific experimentation. The criterion of independence is not sufficient to avoid a contradiction in the attitude of the person who says that he does not approve of the injustice perpetrated by others, but at the same time accepts for his own work the “biological material” which the others have obtained by means of that injustice. When the illicit action is endorsed by the laws which regulate healthcare and scientific research, it is necessary to distance oneself from the evil aspects of that system in order not to give the impression of a certain toleration or tacit acceptance of actions which are gravely unjust.[11]

At times, the objection is raised that the above-mentioned considerations would mean that people of good conscience involved in research would have the duty to oppose actively all the illicit actions that take place in the field of medicine, thus excessively broadening their ethical responsibility. In reality, the duty to avoid cooperation in evil and scandal relates to their ordinary professional activities, which they must pursue in a just manner and by means of which they must give witness to the value of life by their opposition to gravely unjust laws. Therefore, it needs to be stated that there is a duty to refuse to use such “biological material” even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place. [Emphasis in original]

Thus, we see that the argument that the fetal cell lines in question were not specifically developed for use in vaccines is not relevant to a discussion of the liceity of their use. Their origin alone is sufficient to render their use in any vaccine illicit.

The use of ‘confirmatory testing’ in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

There is an additional issue at hand in the discussion about the current coronavirus vaccines. Much has been made of the phrase “confirmatory testing” in order to dismiss ethical concerns about the use of aborted fetal cells in the development of the synthetic mRNA coronavirus vaccines. However, it was not a single after-market confirmation that employed these cells, as is suggested by the phrase and the way it is generally touted; on the contrary, aborted fetal cells were used in multiple phases of design and development for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The scientific literature sets the record straight:

  1. A foundational test that was an integral part of the design phase was done in aborted fetal cells for both the Pfizer [12] and the Moderna [13] vaccines. The original spike protein was unstable when it was not attached to the whole virus, so vaccine developers introduced a few mutations into the sequence (along with some additional mutations to stabilize the mRNA and prevent it being degraded too quickly in the body after vaccination). The developers needed to check to see that the new, synthetic mRNA sequence generated the proper three-dimensional structure that they expected to produce. In order to do this, they genetically modified human cells to produce the mutated spike protein and then purified it from the cells. The protein production was done in HEK-293 cells (Pfizer specifically used Expi293F cells, which are a derivative line from the original HEK-293).

  2. HEK-293 cells were used to test expression of the mRNA.  To do this, researchers put the mRNA developed for the vaccine into the growth medium with human cells, along with some chemicals that increase the cells’ ability to take up the genetic information. Then they measured the amount of spike protein that the cells made. This was done in aborted fetal cells for both Pfizer [12] and Moderna [14] vaccines.

  3. HEK-293 cells were used to test delivery of the vaccine via the novel lipid nanoparticle technology. The researchers needed to see if they could get the mRNA into the cells inside the nanoparticles, because this would be the only way to manage delivery in a living person. The process is very similar to the test just described, except that the mRNA is now encased inside the lipid nanoparticle and no special chemicals are used. This was done in aborted fetal cells for the Moderna [15] vaccine.  

  4. ACE-2-overexpressing HEK-293T cells were used to create pseudoviruses for a neutralization assay to detect the presence of antibodies. This means that the vaccine developers needed some non-infectious viruses to determine if vaccinated individuals made binding antibodies to the virus. These pseudoviruses (which expressed the spike proteins but would not actually infect humans) were grown in aborted fetal cells and harvested from these cell cultures.  Both Pfizer[12] and Moderna [16] used HEK-293 for these tests.

All of this demonstrates that there is a much greater involvement with aborted fetal cell lines than recent statements on the morality of the vaccines suggest — this by itself would warrant the possibility of respectfully asking for a re-evaluation of these arguments, as their starting points are inadequate. This is very relevant to the argument of remote cooperation with evil, which will be dealt with in a subsequent section of this article. 

Natural consequences to violations of the natural law

Correct distinctions must again be made regarding the second reason for Barbieri’s argument that aborted fetal vaccines are acceptable for use: the idea that the vaccines do not contain residual fetal cells or any biological material of concern. It is quite true that vaccines produced in aborted fetal cells are not likely to contain intact human cells — in order for the products that are made in the cells to be usable in a given vaccine, the cells must be lysed (broken open) and their contents purified to remove as much cell debris as possible. On the surface, this sounds reassuring. However, as any scientist who has worked with purification of molecular material well knows, no purification process — no matter how stringent — will ever result in an absolutely pure preparation of the desired materials. There will always be some debris.

Unlike Dr. Paul Offit, who is content to make sweeping and often inaccurate statements about the safety of vaccines and the credibility of those who call them into question, Dr. Theresa Deisher and her colleagues at Sound Choice Pharmaceuticals have actually measured the amount of residual fetal DNA present in vaccines. The safety limit established by the WHO is 10 ng of DNA per dose — a limit that has been revised upwards by a factor of 1000 since the original establishment of the safety limits in the 1980s.[17] Unfortunately, there is currently no oversight that requires manufacturers to actually conform to these guidelines, but only a suggestion that a “risk assessment” be conducted for each vaccine.[18] This lack of oversight has led to vaccines being produced that contain a much larger quantity of residual DNA: the rubella vaccine contains 150 ng/dose, the hepatitis A vaccine contains 300 ng/dose, and the chickenpox vaccine contains 2,000 ng/dose [19] — which is a concentration that is double that of the actual active ingredient of the chickenpox vaccine. These DNA fragments are usually small, due to the process of cell lysis (which may also be followed by DNA digestion), but this does not reduce the risk that the fetal contaminants pose. On the contrary, short fragments are ideal for insertional mutation into the host cell.[20] This insertional mutation does not just pose a potential risk for cancer, but also a risk for a number of neurodevelopmental disorders — which include childhood onset schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.[21] It is possible that the human fetal DNA can also induce an autoimmune reaction to the child’s own DNA, especially in the chickenpox vaccine where the concentration is so high. That these consequences exist should come as no surprise to us as Catholics — the natural law has clearly been violated in the manufacturing of these vaccines, tainted as they are with the crime of abortion, and so we should expect some natural biological consequences to that violation.

Cooperation with evil and grave cause

While the illicit origin of the cell lines and the illicitness of their use by researchers has been amply established, the reader may still wonder — what of the remoteness of the original abortion from me? Am I still to question whether these vaccines are licit for my personal use, especially given the recent statements by the Vatican and the USCCB?

It is obvious that the patient receiving the vaccine has a different level of proximity to evil than the researcher actively pursuing experiments in fetal cell lines. Even a Pfizer lab technician, who works on developing the vaccine but has no say in how the vaccines are manufactured, has less culpability than the primary researcher who decided to use the aborted fetal cell lines in the first place. However, let us be clear about what the Magisterium actually teaches: There must be a proportionate grave reason to justify the use of these vaccines. This is addressed specifically in the closing of paragraph 35 of Dignitas Personae:

Of course, within this general picture there exist differing degrees of responsibility. Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision. [Emphasis in original]

A recent article written by a good priest explains very clearly that in the case of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the occasion is not grave, and so the conditional permission to use the abortion-tainted vaccines does not apply. He states that “one can morally accept the use of abortion-tainted therapeutic interventions, such as vaccines, to neutralize a health threat, if all of the following necessary conditions are met”:

  1. There is no available morally untainted therapeutic intervention that neutralizes the proposed health threat.

  2. There must exist a proportionate cause for using an abortion-tainted therapeutic intervention based on the risks involved.

  3. There must exist an actual grave threat to your health or that of others if you were to refrain from taking the proposed abortion tainted therapeutic intervention.

  4. One must oppose the abortion-taintedness of the therapeutic intervention.

Father proceeds to explain, very clearly, that only criterion 4 can be met during the current coronavirus situation. This would indicate that invoking the use of “grave cause” in the current vaccine debate is inappropriate. I will not repeat all of his statements here, but only refer the reader to his analysis linked above.

Unfortunately, the lack of grave cause is not news for those who understand the basis of the arguments concerning vaccines, abortion, and cooperation with evil. Even the case of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which was used in the past to establish grave cause for the use of aborted fetal vaccines, turns out to be questionable as a starting place for the moral argument of licit cooperation with evil. Cases of CRS did not decrease as a result of vaccination but as a result of the legalization of abortion and dropping fertility rates,[22] and herd immunity to rubella remained almost completely unaffected by the use of the vaccines.[23] Instead of being more protective, the mass vaccinations for rubella (with a vaccine that required at least 99 separate abortions to develop) instead initially increased the incidence of CRS and subsequently made pregnant mothers more likely to be susceptible to the disease because of secondary vaccine failure.[24]

Appropriation of evil 

Even if our proximity to the original abortion were sufficiently remote to justify licit cooperation, it is helpful to remember that when we use these vaccines we cannot avoid what moral theologians call “appropriation of evil.” It is a distinction that is important to the case of the current COVID-19 vaccines.

The basic structure of the actions involved in cooperation and appropriation problems is the same. In both types of cases, an auxiliary agent performs an action that somehow facilitates or supports the principal agent’s efforts in performing his or her own action. What is different in each case is the respective identities of the agent facing a moral decision about whether or not to go forward with a particular action, and the agent who has already decided to perform a morally objectionable act. In short, in cooperation cases the auxiliary agent is the morally conscientious decision-maker who must decide what to do in light of his or her prospective action’s likely contribution to an evil act performed by the principal agent. In appropriation cases, the roles are reversed. Here, it is the principal agent who is the morally conscientious decision maker, who must decide whether to go ahead with an action that makes use of the fruits or by-products of a morally objectionable act performed by the auxiliary agent.

In cooperation cases, the evil to be done is prospective; the cooperator’s action causally contributes to the execution of the illicit action by the principal agent. From a perspective that focuses on the external dimension of human acts, cooperation problems are obvious; we can see how the cooperator’s action fuels the evil act of another agent. But such a perspective renders the moral dangers of appropriation virtually invisible. Appropriators make no causal contribution to the evil action whose fruits or by-products they appropriate; generally speaking (but not always), at the time they confront the decision about whether to act, the evil act has already been done. The main effect of a decision to appropriate the evil action of another is internal; by choosing to tie their action to the evil act of another, appropriators shape their characters in a way that may not have immediate, tangible consequences in the external world. In short, the immediate impact of the decision to appropriate the illicit act of another is a deeply interior one; it alters the character of the appropriator.[25]

This problem cannot simply be waved away by statements about herd immunity and pandemics — most of which are not supported by actual evidence. Moreover, it is important to those who champion the idea of licit cooperation to note this fact — while cooperation with evil may be licit in proportionately grave circumstances, it is never required of the faithful Catholic. Those who choose to “opt out” of participating in this evil, and to encourage others to do so, are not in violation of sound moral teaching.

In conclusion

Barbieri closes his article with the unjustified assertion that “those who stubbornly claim that abortion exists only inasmuch as it serves the interest of the pharmaceutical industry are deliberately lying, or rather, they are simply ignoring the reality of the abortionist culture.” It is hard to see how such a statement could have been made in good faith, particularly as those who are decrying the link between abortion and the pharmaceutical industry are not suggesting that abortion exists only for the purposes of biomedical research (I daresay those of us who are making this argument have enough knowledge of Original Sin to understand that it exists to serve man’s selfish desire to disregard the prohibitions of the 6th and 9th Commandments) but are insisting — and rightly so — that the quiet acceptance of aborted fetal tissue cells in vaccines has fueled a growing acceptance of not only abortion but also of embryonic stem cell research, which has been repeatedly condemned by the Church. This is in addition to the expansion of aborted fetal tissue research into other barbaric and grotesque practices that require the constant supply of fresh tissue. The justification for the continuation of these practices that involve the immediate creation and destruction of human life is often that the vaccines that we now rely upon were developed in fetal tissue. The issue is not an irrelevant one, but is a much-neglected aspect of the multi-faceted battle to defeat the anti-culture of death and restore the dignity of the human person. 

As a final note, when discussing his arguments against being concerned about the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines, Barbieri also expresses his opinion that discussing the c-section nature of abortions to obtain living tissue for research is “flippant.” I disagree. As a culture, we have become so numb to the reality of abortion — of its horror and its connection to the occult gnostic principles that Barbieri himself references at the end of his own article — that it seems almost necessary to humanize its victims once again. This is different from sensationalism — giving the aborted children a voice in a description of their last agony is not a cheap tactic to gain attention in a debate. It is a sobering insight into how cozy we have become with the specious benefits of our cooperation with evil.


[1] Albert B Sabin, Peter K. Olitsky, Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and medicine, Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Virus in vitro in human embryonic tissue. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1936, 34:357-359.

[2] 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, 1952; 30: 231-245.

[3] Thomas H. Weller, John F. Enders, Frederick C. Robbins and Marguerite B. Stoddard; Studies on the Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Viruses in Tissue Culture : I. The Propagation of Poliomyelitis Viruses in Suspended Cell Cultures of Various Human Tissue; J Immunol 1952; 69: 645-671.

[4] Plotkin S, et al. Attenuation of RA27/3 Rubella Virus in WI-38 Human Diploid Cell, Amer J Dis of Children, 1969; 118: 178-179.

[5] Deisher TA, et al. Impact of environmental factors on the prevalence of autistic disorder after 1979. J Pub Health Epidem, 2014; 6(9): 271-286.

[6] All of the Rao Lab’s publications are available at this link: https://www.t4lab.net/Publications.htm Those that use HEK-293 cells are the ones directly involved with the HIV vaccine development.

[7] While the Children of God for Life website lists MRC-5 as being used in the AstraZeneca vaccines, but I did not find evidence of the use of this cell line in the literature that they cited.

[8] FDA, Center for Biologics and Evaluation of Research. Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, Meeting, 26 March 2001. https://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20170404095417/https:/www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/01/transcripts/3750t1_01.pdf

[9] Ibid.

[10] footnote from Dignitas Personae: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae, I, 4: AAS 80 (1988), 83.

[11] footnote from Dignitas Personae: Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 73: AAS 87 (1995), 486: “Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection”. The right of conscientious objection, as an expression of the right to freedom of conscience, should be protected by law.

[12] Vogel LB, et al. A prefusion SARS-CoV-2 spike RNA vaccine is highly immunogenic and prevents lung infection in non-human primates. bioRxiv 2020.09.08.280818; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.08.280818

[13] Wrapp D, et al. Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation. Science; 13 Mar 2020: 1260-1263.

[14] Corbett, K.S., Edwards, D.K., Leist, S.R. et al. SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine design enabled by prototype pathogen preparedness. Nature 586, 567–571 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2622-0

[15] Moderna. US Patent 10,583,203. 10 Mar 2020. https://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=10,583,203.PN.&OS=PN/10,583,203&RS=PN/10,583,203

[16] Jackson LA, et al. An mRNA Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 — Preliminary Report. N Engl J Med 12 Nov 2020; 383:1920-1931

[17] Yang H. Establishing Acceptable Limits of Residual DNA. PDA JPST, 2013; 67(2): 155-163.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Jarzyna P, Doan NV, Deisher TA. Insertional Mutagenesis and Autoimmunity Induced Disease Caused by Human Fetal and Retrovial Residual Toxins in Vaccines. Issues in Law & Medicine, 2001; 31(2): 221-234.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ravitz J. Before Zika: The virus that helped legalize abortion in the US. CNN, 11 Aug 2016. https://www.cnn.com/2016/08/09/health/rubella-abortion-zika/index.html. Accessed 21 April 2020.

[23] Diodati CJM. Immunization: History, Ethics, Law and Health. Ontario, CN: Integral Aspects Incorporated, 1999, p. 18.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Kaveny, MC. Appropriation of Evil: Cooperation’s Mirror Image, Theological Studies, Jun 2000; 61: 284-286.


COVID-19 Vaccines: Scientific Truths and Fake News 

by Emmanuele Barbieri – the original article in Italian is available to be viewed here.

A number of videos have been available online for the past few weeks whose purpose seems to discredit the pro-life world. In default of theological and moral reasons, fake news (“bufale”) are being circulated in order to prove the immorality of COVID-19 vaccination. They have repeatedly been debunked, so it appears legitimate to doubt that those who keep fostering them are in good faith. 

What are these “bufale” about, then? First and foremost, they claim that COVID-19 vaccines are organ trade byproducts: live fetuses would be obtained by Cesarean delivery for vaccine manufacturing purposes. Secondly, patients injected with aborted fetal cells should be regarded as a sort of “cannibals.” The third claim is that synthetic COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) somehow alter human DNA. Even from a merely methodological perspective, these videos are deliberately misleading; they simply disregard the huge amount of scientific literature on the topic, focusing on a handful of sources: a) a book against vaccination by Pamela Acker; b) a few statements made by Dr. Stanley Plotkin before a judge; c) some video material covertly shot at Planned Parenthood premises by pro-life activist David Delaiden. However, the following should be also taken into account: 

a)  Pamela Acker is an American graduate in biology, with no specific expertise. Maintaining she is a qualified expert in biology would be like passing off a law school graduate as an experienced lawyer. Moreover, it is a rather peculiar fact that a biologist who claims to be a vaccine expert, and grants interviews as a subject matter expert, can boast no academic publications at all. This can be easily ascertained by a query on Scopus, a worldwide repository of research papers, where no active profile seems to even exist for the biologist woman. Someone might object that certain scientists who are not subscribing to mainstream opinions undergo systematic censorship. That might explain the lack of a Scopus profile. Sed contra, it has to be noted that even Dr. Stefano Montanari, definitely not a pro-vaccine activist, has a profile on Scopus reporting as many as 27 publications that were quoted 278 times, with a scientific impact index (h-index) of 9. More in detail, the only one known publication by Pamela Acker – Vaccination: A Catholic Perspective, published by the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation – deals with the COVID-19 vaccine issue almost incidentally (pp. 73-77, i.e. 5 out of 85 pages); it actually aims at promoting rejection of any possible kind of vaccination. The thesis that the book tries to prove (“Good Health”,pp.80-83) is that all vaccines are harmful to people’s health, and should be replaced by outdoor exercise, eating healthy food, and natural remedies. Pamela Acker just realized that the discoveries made by scientists such as Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, or Robert Koch were never beneficial to mankind; she wants to persuade her readers that they all wasted their time, but fails to provide any substantial evidence to back such a bold claim.

b)  Dr. Stanley Plotkin, professor emeritus in virology at the University of Pennsylvania, undoubtedly is an expert in his own field, who contributed among others to the development of the rubella vaccine. In 2018, Dr. Plotkin was summoned to testify at a trial: the issue at stake was the vaccination of a child whose parents were in mutual disagreement on the topic. YouTube features the full video recording of his deposition (8 hours), but there is also an 8 minute video clip sporting a few of his statements. Dr. Plotkin states that he worked with 76 fetuses as a researcher; but that fact has nothing to do with current COVID vaccines. Experimenting on aborted embryos or fetuses is a moral offence, be they one or one hundred; so, his testimony does not affect the COVID-19 vaccine argument at all. 

From the 76 aborted fetuses story, the book reader’s attention is flippantly diverted to the case of Cesarean deliveries performed to collect children’s organs. Here, the purported proof would be a series of video clips shot by pro-life activist David Daleiden with a hidden camera, whereby he claims to have proved organ trade among Planned Parenthood and various pharmaceutical corporations and universities. Such shootings, assuming they were not tampered with, confirm the fact that Planned Parenthood is committed to research projects that are intrinsically immoral; but neither those projects nor the company’s potential involvement in organ trade have anything to do with COVID-19 vaccines. 

From a scientific perspective, as far as COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, the issue we are interested in is their relationship with aborted fetal tissues. As of today, available COVID-19 vaccines rely on living cell cultures – called cell lines – mainly the HEK-293 line (Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca), the MRC-5 line (AstraZeneca), and the PER.C6 (Johnson & Johnson). 

As those are the vaccines that are now being used in the ongoing vaccination campaign, we will focus on the corresponding cell lines. Those wishing to learn more about cell line based vaccine development may visit the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website. A thorough list of currently manufactured vaccines, as well as of related cell lines, can be found at the Children of God for Life website. Children of God for Life is an association whose peculiar mission is to provide ethically viable vaccination alternatives that do not make use of aborted fetal cells. 

The origins of the HEK 293 cell line – the one being now employed for the production of almost all COVID-19 vaccines – looks like an unsolved mystery, although there is a general consensus on the fact that the cell line was originally obtained from an abortus provocatus in 1972. Here is an official statement by Dr. Alex Van der Eb – who took part in HEK 293 development. The statement is quoted in an FDA document: “The kidney of the fetus, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore. The fetus, as far as I can remember, was completely normal. Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at that time, but it got lost, all this information.” (A. van der Eb, Testimony before the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, May 16, 2001, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research meeting transcript, p. 81). 

Regarding the PER.C6 cell line, in the same document Dr. Van der Eb seems to remember a few more details about its origin: “So I isolated a retina from a fetus, from a healthy fetus as far as could be seen, 18 weeks old. There was nothing special with a family history or the pregnancy was completely normal up to the 18 weeks, and it turned out to be a socially indicated abortus, abortus provocatus, and that was simply because the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus.” “The father was not known, not to the hospital anymore […] and that was, in fact, the reason why the abortion was requested.” “At that time already '85, I should say, the cells were frozen, stored in liquid nitrogen, and in 1995 one of these files was thawed for the generation of the PER.C^ cells.”  

Thus, the PER.C6 cell line originated from the retina of an 18-weeks-old fetus, who was aborted in 1985 for reasons that are totally uncorrelated to scientific research on vaccines. 

On the other hand, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research database reports that the MRC-5 cell line was obtained in September 1996 from fibroblastic lung tissue belonging to a 14 week male fetus aborted by a 27-year-old woman for psychiatric reasons. Again, the motive is not even remotely connected to the pharmaceutical industry. 

As a final example, I would like to mention the case of the WI-38 cell line, though it was not directly used in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The WI-38 line originated from a 12 week aborted female fetus in the nineteen sixties. Dr. Leonard Hayflick, who developed this cell line together with Dr. Sven Gard at the Wistar Institute, stated the motive for the abortion was that the mother thought she already had “too many children” (Gamma Globulin Prophylaxis; Inactivated Rubella Virus; Production and Biologics Control of Live Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines [no author given], in American Journal of Diseases of Children 118.2 (August 1969), pp. 377–278). 

In the early nineteen sixties, abortion was still forbidden throughout Western Europe. In fact, it was first legalized in the U.K., in 1967. In the U.S., Colorado was the first State to make it legal in the event of a rape, incest, or whenever pregnancy might be harmful to mother’s health. Similar laws were passed by other States, until legal abortion was set off at the federal level following the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling on January 22, 1973. So, experimentation on fetal tissue was forbidden back then, not just from a moral perspective, but also from a legal standpoint. However, none of such experiments was conducted with the intention of developing a vaccine. 

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are viral vaccines, relying on the MRC-5 and PER.C6 cell lines in their development, testing and manufacturing stages. Instead, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA-based synthetic vaccines, which use the HEK 293 cell line for testing purposes only, not for manufacturing. This is the reason why the U.S. bishops made a formal statement on the recently approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, saying that Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should possibly be preferred, due to their looser connection with aborted fetal cell lines, although resort to the Johnson & Jonson vaccine is ultimately not forbidden. 

Concerning the moral acceptability of COVID vaccines, it may be useful to read a statement from the Ethics & Public Policy Center endorsed by prominent scholars in the fields of ethics, theology, and philosophy worldwide (https://eppc.org/news/statement-from-pro-life-catholic-scholars-on-the-moral-acceptability-of-rec eiving-covid-19-vaccines/). Certainly, none of the aforementioned vaccines contains aborted fetal cells. According to leading scholars, a few nanograms of DNA – possibly a few billionths of a gram – may still be present in viral vaccines. Synthetic vaccines merely contain the genetic information that is needed by the cell in order to build copies of the Spike protein (the key used by the virus for cell unlocking) – the agent against which one must protect himself in order to prevent infection. Nor it is true that synthetic vaccines alter DNA. On this specific topic, Paul A. Offit – an American pediatrician and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia – published an article in which he talks extensively and in detail about the most widespread vaccine myths, such as that they would host remarkable amounts of human fetal cells, as well as DNA capable of altering the recipient’s genetic code. In the article, available on PubMed, Dr. Offit states: “Human DNA is highly sensitive to destruction by chemical processes, and much of the DNA involved in creating these vaccines is destroyed in the process. The end result contains only minimal amounts of residual DNA, all of it fragmented, and none of it representing a viable genome. Additionally, isolated portions of DNA cannot incorporate themselves into a new genome without many additional processes being involved. In fact, this involves many of the major issues that make gene therapy difficult”. 

Another statement that is worth reporting here deals with the risk of such DNA fragments representing an oncogenetic factor: “The safety of very small quantities of residual human DNA has been studied by at least two groups of researchers using both probabilistic and animal models. All such studies are generally in agreement as to the fact that millions to trillions of dose equivalents of the amount of DNA contained in the vaccines would be needed in order for the risk – let us say – of an oncological event to become significant.” (S. Geoghegan, K.P. O’Callaghan , P. A. Offit, Vaccine Safety: Myths and Misinformation. Front Microbiol. 2020; 11:372. Published 2020 Mar 17). The reader may also learn from scientific literature that science has been working for several years in order to reduce the amount of residual DNA in vaccines, which is now really negligible (cfr. Harry Yang, Zi Wei, M. Schenerman, A statistical approach to determining criticality of residual host cell DNA, J Biopharm Stat 2015; 25:234-246); H. Yang, Establishing acceptable limits of residual DNA, PDA J Pharm Sci Technol 2013; 67 (2), pp. 155-163; H. Yang, Lanju Zhang, Mark Galinski, A probabilistic model for risk assessment of residual host cell DNA in biological products, in “Vaccine” 28, 26 April 2010, pp. 3308-3311). 

As we have demonstrated, the primary reason for using cell lines is not vaccine production, but rather the deplorable spreading of abortion as a practice that has now been around for more than fifty years. As of today, in fact, abortion is legal in many countries all over the world; hence, fetal material is readily available. Therefore, it is apparent that only a full-scale war waged on abortion and its cultural and philosophical background will be able to succeed in stopping experimentation of fetal tissues. Conversely, an anti-vaccine crusade – as good as the intentions of some of its promoters may be – is never going to remove the reality of abortion, which will stay in existence and cause innumerable victims, even if no pharmaceutical corporations gain any profit from it. Those who stubbornly claim that abortion exists only inasmuch as it serves the interests of the pharmaceutical industry are deliberately lying, or rather, they are simply ignoring the reality of the abortionist culture, as well as of its founding principle: that is, the unmistakably gnostic idea that human lives can be sacrificed, because the end justifies the means. Only by restoring a realist anthropological, philosophical and theological worldview, in compliance with the teachings of Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas, will it be possible to eradicate the abortionist mindset, and, in so doing, to finally channel scientific research into morally acceptable guidelines.