CORRECTION: Vaccines against covid-19 do not use cells from aborted foetuses

Many messages circulating on social networks claim that pharmaceutical companies use cells from aborted foetuses to make their covid-19 vaccines. This is FALSE. None of the vaccines authorised by the world’s drug regulatory agencies contain this type of cells.

"Pharmaceutical companies use cells from aborted foetuses to make their covid-19 vaccines"

The origin of this lie is related to the techniques that are used to make the vaccines and that usually use cell lines, laboratory cells that proliferate endless and that were made decades ago using cells from legally aborted foetus.

Within the SARS-CoV-2 context, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford have manufactured vaccines against covid-19 using the cell line known as HEK 293, made from kidney cells extracted from a foetus legally aborted in 1973. Janssen, on the other hand, uses the PER.C6 cell line, which has patented and that comes from retinal cells from a foetus legally aborted in 1985.

As a consequence, the vaccines against covid-19 are not directly made with cells from aborted human babies, but made from cells created by scientists almost 50 years ago and that are continuously reproducing in the laboratory.

The HEK 293 cell line

HEK 293, which is widely used in research, “is a line that is used both in laboratories and biopharmaceutical companies because these cells produce large amounts of proteins'', Montse Plana, PhD in Cell Biology and Immunology and researcher at IDIBAPS institute attached to the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, explains to Verificat. “They are used as little factories to produce the protein that will be then used in a drug because it is very easy to produce in large quantities and fastly. This is the advantage of using (this type of) cell cultures''.

Once the protein is produced in these cultures, “it is extracted, cleaned and purified, and the remaining is what is used in the clinical trials”, Plana details. Consequently, the material introduced into the formulations to produce the vaccines against covid-19 are proteins created through cloned cells from human tissue, in no case cells taken directly from an aborted foetus.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have made the vaccines using the mRNA technology which teaches cells to produce the Spike protein, present at the surface of the SARS-CoV-2, to trigger an immune response in the body against the virus. Both pharmaceutical companies used the HEK 293 in the design of the structure of their compositions during the pre-clinical phase. AstraZeneca/Oxford, on the other hand, includes the proteins created through this cell line in the production of its formulation.

The PER.C6 cell line

Janssen, with cell line PER.C6, has made a viral vector vaccine, using a different virus from SARS-CoV-2, to infect cells and make the organism producing the Spike protein and thus generate antibodies through the cellular machinery.

Vaccines against varicella, rubella, hepatitis A and rabies also use these cell lines.

We are a team of young journalists from Barcelona who work independently to combat misinformation in our territory and beyond. We rely on facts and data to verify what politicians say and the falsehoods circulating on social media.

We need you. With your contribution, you will contribute to a healthier political debate and help promote educational projects to teach citizens how to navigate information chaos and defend themselves against misinformation.

You can contribute as much as one euro and it won't take you more than 45 seconds (we've counted them). If you can, please mark your contribution as monthly and so we can continue to do our job rigorously and independently. Thank you so much.