Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.
In 2020, a rumor spread about the COVID-19 vaccine containing cells from aborted fetuses.
All three authorized COVID-19 vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells, despite continual claims to the contrary. The vaccines do not contain fetal cells or tissue, and no new abortions were required to make any of the components. However, many vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine used most frequently, were created by using "historic fetal cell lines" when they were being researched and tested.
The early stages of vaccine development have used fetal cell lines to test the efficacy of vaccine formulae, but the final products do not contain aborted fetal cells.
Furthermore, the fetal cells used in this study were obtained from decades-old elective abortions that were not intended to create a vaccine. The Coronavirus COVID-19 is not the only vaccine that is created using fetal cell lines.
A number of religious organizations oppose using fetal stem cell lines in general medicine research.
The Difference Between Fetal Cell Lines and Aborted Fetal Cells
James Lawler, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Nebraska Medical Center, defined “fetal cell lines” and clarified their difference from “aborted fetal cells” as: “Fetal cell lines are cells that grow in a laboratory. They descend from cells taken from abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. Fetal cell lines, cells grown in a laboratory based on aborted fetal cells collected generations ago, were used in testing during research and development of the mRNA vaccines, and during production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”
What Are the Ingredients in the COVID-19 Vaccine?
The vaccines contain messenger RNA, which is genetic material that instructs our cells to make proteins, which then train the immune system to fight off the coronavirus. They also include fatty substances called lipids that help RNA cross our cell membranes, as well as salt, sugar, and a few other substances that help stabilize the other ingredients.
Justice Thomas Cited Claims About COVID-19 Vaccines
In June 2022, Justice Clarence Thomas cited claims that COVID-19 vaccines were “developed using cell lines taken from aborted children.”
He objected when the Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by New York healthcare workers who objected to the state's vaccination law “on religious grounds to all accessible COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines originating from aborted children.”
Justice Thomas Position About COVID-19 Vaccines and Aborted Fetal Cells
Justice Thomas did not assert that COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells. However, he mentioned that “cell lines derived from aborted children were used in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines.” Despite his use of the highly politicized term “aborted children” as opposed to “aborted fetuses.”
His remarks were misrepresented by some mainstream news outlets, which prompted confusion about the function of fetal cells or tissue.
News outlets publicized Thomas' remarks, with some claiming that he made a factual error or was spreading false information about vaccines. It is unclear if Justice Thomas agreed with the petitioners' stance or whether he was only summarizing it.
Justice Thomas is correct in his assertion, even if some people misunderstood his dissent. He uses the word "developed" rather than "manufactured" and does not imply that any of the vaccines include fetal cells. Providing context is still essential to understanding what fetal cell lines are, how they relate to COVID-19 vaccines, and how they compare to other vaccines, medical products, and scientific research.
In social media, this accusation was much more exaggerated, with many Twitter users incorrectly claiming that Justice Thomas had stated that the COVID-19 vaccines contained aborted child cells.