Aborted Fetal Cell Lines Used In Vaccines

While the issue of aborted fetal cell line use in vaccine production is now widely discussed, there are few places that document each of these cell lines and the abortions performed to develop them from primary and official sources.

As of 16 May 2020, using mostly primary sources available on the internet, we find that at least 181 abortions have been performed to develop fetal cell lines for the manufacturing of vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccines in development. Those cell lines are documented here.

Polio Vaccine

Albert Sabin references two abortions when he cultivated the polio virus on embryonic tissues in 1936 “A new approach was made by the use of 3- to 4-months-old human embryos, obtained aseptically by Cesarean section. (The authors are indebted to Dr. Lance Monroe, of Bellevue Hospital, for the 2 human embryos used in this investigation.)”[1] Joan Thicke reports five abortions used in his cultivation of polio virus in embryonic tissues: “Virus mutliplied successively therefore in cells derived from five different human embryos.”[2]  In 1954, Dr. John Franklin Enders, Dr. Thomas Huckle Weller, and Dr. Frederick Chapman Robbins won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery that polio virus could be cultured in various tissues, including human embryonic tissue.[3]  Their research indicates that there must have been a minimum of two abortions as human embryonic tissue “was obtained under sterile precautions at the time of abdominal hysterotomy for therapeutic indications.  Embryos of between 12 and 18 weeks gestation have been utilized.”[4]

Research and Development in General

Dr. Stanley Plotkin, in a deposition in January 2018, talks about how 76 aborted fetuses were used to “determine whether or not they could be used to make vaccines.”[5]


WI-38 is the cell line created from the lung of a twelve week old gestation girl, aborted in 1962 in Sweden.[6]  WI stands for Wistar Institute; the number represents the fetal sample.  Some fetal samples were taken from the same baby, but WI-1 through WI-25 were 19 different babies.[7]  WI-38 is currently used in the following FDA-licensed vaccines: Adenovirus, MMR (MMR-II), MMRV (Proquad).  No longer available on the CDC’s excipient list, one can find WI-38 listed in the above vaccine package inserts, which can be found at FDA.gov.

RA 27/3 & Rubella Vaccine

In the development of the rubella vaccine in the late 1960s, scientists needed a baby that had rubella to culture the virus.  In the FDA’s MMR II vaccine insert in the second paragraph, it lists how the vaccine was prepared “the Wistar RA 27/3 strain of live attenuated rubella virus propagated in WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts.”[8]  Wistar RA 27/3 stands for Rubella Abortus 27th fetus 3rd tissue explant.[9]    The virus strains from this baby were then cultured on WI-38 and tested on orphans in PA.[10]  From a journal article about the culturing of rubella in fetal cells, “Observations upon the growth of four strains of rubella virus in human diploid cell strains (HDCS) are reported.  Sixtythree cell strains, derived from 29 fetuses by means of an organ culture technique, were studied.  All HDCS were susceptible to rubella virus and a chronic infection could be established readily in them.”[11]

The rubella vaccine was then tested on pregnant women “to evaluate the fetal hazard of accidental administration of live rubella vaccine.”[12] 35 babies were aborted in this study.


MRC-5 is the cell line created from the lung of a fourteen week old gestation boy, aborted in 1966 in England.[13]  MRC stands for Medical Research Council Cell Strain 5.[14]  At least one abortion was done to develop this line.  MRC-5 is currently used in the following FDA-licensed vaccines as listed in the CDC Excipient Table[15] and individual vaccine package inserts found on FDA.gov: DTap-IPV (Quadracel), DTap-IPV/HiB (Pentacel), Hep A (Havrix), Hep A/Hep B (Twinrix), MMRV (Proquad), Rabies (Imovax), Varicella (Varivax), Shingles (Zostavax).


In 1972, the cell line Human Embryonic Kidney 293 (HEK-293) was made.[16] At least one abortion was used to get this cell line.  In 2020, numerous COVID19 vaccines were developed with HEK-293, including but not limited to, Moderna’s mRNA-1273 COVID19 vaccine which uses the Spike (S) protein.[17]  This Spike (S) protein is expressed in HEK-293.[18]  The Jenner Institute began developing a COVID19 vaccine using ChAdOx1 technology in 2020.[19] ChAdOx1 was developed using HEK-293 cells.[20]  The University of Pittsburgh also developed a COVID-19 vaccine–PittCoVacc, using HEK-293.[21]  China’s CanSino Biologics’ Ad5-nCoV also uses HEK-293.[22]


In 1975, IMR-90 was created “as a replacement for the cell line known as WI-38. The IMR-90 cell line, like WI-38, was derived from lung tissue of a human female embryo following therapeutic abortion. In addition to its use for vaccine production and as a reference cell line for functional studies, it has been used in a variety of other studies, including senescence, cellular transport, and DNA repair.”[23] 


In 1985, PER.C6 was aborted in the Netherlands.  The retina was harvested from an 18-week old gestation baby, and the fetal cell line was created.[24]  PER.C6 is used in the following vaccines that have not yet been licensed by the FDA: HIV, RSV, Ebola, Zika, MERS[25], COVID-19.[26]


In 2015, out of nine fetuses, the Walvax-2 cell line was created from a three month girl fetus aborted in China. “We also assessed the susceptibility of these cells to rabies, hepatitis A, and Varicella viruses. Analysis of virus titers showed the Walvax-2 cells to be equal or superior to MRC-5 cells for cultivating these viruses.”[27]


To summarize, at least 181 murdered babies have been used in the research and development of vaccines: a minimum of nine in the development of the polio vaccine, 76 in general R&D, 19 in the development of WI-38, 64 in the development of RA 27/3, one in the development of MRC-5, one in the development of HEK-293, one in the development of IMR-90, one in the development of PER.C6, nine in the development of Walvax-2.

[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 <https://cogforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/sabinpolio1936.pdf>

[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, Vol. 30, pg 231-245 <https://cogforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/PolioThickeCanada.pdf>

[3] https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1954/summary/

[4] Thomas H. Weller, John F. Enders, Studies on the Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Viruses in Tissue Culture : I. The Propagation of Poliomyelitis Viruses in Suspended Cell Cultures of Various Human Tissue; Journal of Immunology 1952;69;645-671 <https://cogforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/poliovax1952.pdf>

[5] https://www.docdroid.net/8zJh4QQ/1-11-18-matheson-plotkin.pdf#page=341

[6] https://www.coriell.org/0/Sections/Search/Sample_Detail.aspx?Ref=AG06814-N&Product=CC

[7] L. Hayflick and P.S.Moorhead, The Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cell Strains, Experimental Cell Research, 1961, 25, pg 591 <https://cogforlife.org/Hayflick1961ExpCell.pdf>

[8] https://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/UCM123789.pdf

[9] 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 <https://cogforlife.org/AmJDisChildRA273inWI-38.pdf>

[10] Plotkin et al,  Studies of Immunization with living rubella virus; Trials in Children With a Strain Cultured From an Aborted Fetus, American Journal Diseases in Children, Vol 110, pg 381-389, 1965 <https://cogforlife.org/AmJDisChildPlotkinRubellaVirus.pdf>

[11] Hoskins, J.M., Plotkin, S.A. Behaviour of rubella virus in human diploid cell strains I. Growth of virus. Archiv f Virusforschung 21, 283–295 (1967) <https://cogforlife.org/PlotkinNumberOfAbortions.pdf>


[13] https://www.coriell.org/0/Sections/Search/Sample_Detail.aspx?Ref=AG05965-C

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MRC-5

[15] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf



[18] https://www.biovendor.com/sars-cov-2-2019-ncov-spike-glycoprotein-s1-hek293-recombinant-2

[19]  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/oxford-university-coronavirus-vaccine/


[21] https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/ebiom/PIIS2352-3964(20)30118-3.pdf


[23] Beiswanger,  A Brief History of IMR-90, Cell Collections 03/04:5-6 <https://www.coriell.org/0/PDF/IPBIR/CCRNews.pdf_4.pdf>




[27]  Ma B, He LF, Zhang YL, et al. Characteristics and viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line, Walvax-2, and its suitability as a candidate cell substrate for vaccine production. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2015;11(4):998‐1009. doi:10.1080/21645515.2015.1009811 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4526020/>

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