Do the Vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna Use Embryonic Stem Cells or Fetal Tissue? The Answer is No.

Dispeling myths associated with Covid vaccine development.

Compiled by Jean Covillo, DNAP(C), CRNA

I have encountered a lot of folks who have expressed concern related to receiving these vaccines due to misinformation they have read regarding vaccine development and the erroneous belief that embryonic stem cells are used to make the vaccine.  I want to assure you that both the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine do not utilize embryonic material in their vaccines and neither company used these materials to create their vaccine.  Here is the reality.  Scientists have gained a lot of knowledge over the years from embryonic stem cell research that has led to groundbreaking discoveries on how to reprogram our own cells to “act” exactly like embryonic cells without using or relying on embryonic cells or tissue in the process.  That’s right-I repeat-the cellular components and/or cells being used in this vaccine development comes from both synthetic material (man-made) or our very own cells found in our own adult bodies that have simply been reprogrammed! They did not come from embryos or fetal tissue.

Most of us don’t read articles like this and vaccine development is complicated. This information is only intended as educational and in no way represents my opinion as it relates to embryonic stem cell research.  I simply want to offer information on the subject matter so that you can be armed with the facts before making a decision. I have numbered the sources and shown them in blue.  Each of these blue labeled numbers are links to the original source. I hope after reading this and doing a little of your own research you decide to get vaccinated.


What are stem cells? (1)

Stem cells: The body’s master cells

Stem cells are the body’s raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells called daughter cells.

These daughter cells either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or become specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells or bone cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.

Where do Stem Cells Come From?(2)

Stem Cells come from two main sources and have different capabilities to replicate.  These two types are embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells. The embryonic stem cells used in research today come from unused embryos. These result from an in vitro fertilization procedure. They are donated to science. These embryonic stem cells are pluripotent. This means that they can turn into any type of cell, i.e., the cell can become a liver cell, or a blood cell, or a brain cell. This versatility allows embryonic stem cells to be used to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs.  Many people disagree on the ethical use of embryonic stem cells for research.  We won’t get into that discussion here.  Instead we will simply focus on the information.

Adult stem cells. There are 2 types of adult stem cells. One type comes from fully developed tissues such as the brain, skin, and bone marrow. There are only small numbers of stem cells in these tissues. Unlike embryonic stem cells, they are more likely to only be able to generate certain types of cells. For example, a stem cell that comes from the liver will only make more liver cells. They are limited by the degree of differentiation they can assume.

The second type of adult stem cell is called “induced pluripotent stem cells”. These are adult stem cells that have been modified in a lab by reprogramming them to be more like embryonic stem cells. These modified cells can then act just like embryonic stem cells and turn into any type of cell, i.e., liver cell, blood cell, brain cell.  Scientists first reported that human stem cells could be changed and modified in this manner back in 2006. Induced pluripotent stem cells don’t seem to be different from embryonic stem cell.  It is these adult stem cells that are being used in vaccine development and not actual embryonic stem cells.

Structure of Nucleic Acids (3)

Nucleic acids are the most important macromolecules for the continuity of life. They carry the genetic blueprint of a cell and carry instructions for the functioning of the cell.

The two main types of nucleic acids are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). DNA is the genetic material found in all living organisms, ranging from single-celled bacteria to multicellular mammals. The other type of nucleic acid, RNA, is mostly involved in protein synthesis. The DNA molecules never leave the nucleus but instead use an intermediary to communicate with the rest of the cell. This intermediary is the messenger RNA (mRNA).  In the natural world, the body relies on millions of tiny proteins to keep itself alive and healthy, and it uses mRNA to tell cells which proteins to make. If you could design your own mRNA, you could, in theory, hijack that process and create any protein you might desire — antibodies to vaccinate against infection, enzymes to reverse a rare disease, or growth agents to mend damaged heart tissue. This is the premise with which Pfizer and Moderna developed the Covid vaccine.

How mRNA Research Aided Vaccine Development (4)

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines rely on messenger RNA.  If you could design your own mRNA, you could, in theory, hijack the cellular processes and create any protein you might desire — antibodies to vaccinate against infection, enzymes to reverse a rare disease, or growth agents to mend damaged heart tissue. But synthetic RNA is notoriously vulnerable to the body’s natural defenses, meaning it would likely be destroyed before reaching its target cells. And, worse, the resulting biological havoc might stir up an immune response that could make the therapy a health risk for some patients. After a decade of trial and error, two leading immunologist scientists Karikó and Weissman at BioNtech (the Pfizer vaccine), came up with a remedy for mRNA’s Achilles’ heel. The stumbling block was that injecting synthetic mRNA typically led to that troublesome immune response; the body sensed a chemical intruder and went to war. The solution, they discovered, was the biological equivalent of swapping out a tire.

Every strand of mRNA is made up of four molecular building blocks called nucleosides. But in its altered, synthetic form, one of those building blocks, like a misaligned wheel on a car, was throwing everything off by signaling the immune system. these scientists simply substituted a modified nucleoside into the synthetic MRNA strand creating a hybrid version of the mRNA that could sneak its way into cells without alerting the body’s defenses.

This discovery was written up in a few papers in 2005 which largely flew under the radar but caught the attention of two other key scientists — one in the United States, another abroad — who would later help found Moderna and Pfizer’s future partner, BioNTech.  Derrick Rossi, a native of Toronto, was a 39-year-old postdoctoral fellow in stem cell biology at Stanford University in 2005 when he read the first paper. Not only did he recognize it as groundbreaking, he now says Karikó and Weissman deserve the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Rossi wondered whether modified messenger RNA might hold the key to obtaining something else researchers desperately wanted: a new source of embryonic stem cells that could be created from regular adult stem cells, which would eliminate the controversy associated with obtaining these cells from discarded embryos.

The reason embryonic stem cells are so important is that these cells have the ability to turn into any type of cell in the body, which gives them the potential to treat a dizzying array of conditions, from Parkinson’s disease to spinal cord injuries. But using those cells for research had created an ethical firestorm because they are harvested from discarded embryos. Rossie wondered if he could use this hybrid synthetic mRNA to reprogram adult stem cells into  pluripotent stem cells so that they acted like embryonic stem cells. He asked a postdoctoral fellow in his lab to explore the idea. In 2009, after more than a year of work, the postdoc waved Rossi over to a microscope. Rossi peered through the lens and saw something extraordinary: a plate full of the very cells he had hoped to create through the modified mRNA process without ever using an embryonic stem cell in their production. Cloaking mRNA so it could slip into cells to produce proteins had a staggering number of applications.

After isolating the virus from patients, Chinese scientists on Jan. 10 posted online its genetic sequence. Because companies that work with messenger RNA don’t need the virus itself to create a vaccine, just a computer that tells scientists what chemicals to put together and in what order, researchers at Moderna, BioNTech, and other companies got to work.

Pfizer/Moderna Vaccine Development and Roll-out (5)

Moderna and BioNTech each designed a tiny snip of genetic code that could be deployed into cells to stimulate a coronavirus immune response. The two vaccines differ in their chemical structures, how the substances are made, and how they deliver mRNA into cells. Both vaccines require two shots a few weeks apart.

The first coronavirus vaccine to roll out was made by Pfizer and BioNTech.  The approach utilizes new developments in research to protecting you from infection by using what is called messenger RNA or mRNA. Unlike a traditional vaccine, this new one relies on genetic code to stimulate an immune response against COVID-19.

The mRNA vaccine contains instructions for making the distinctive spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus and which attaches to a particular protein in our body. Once the mRNA is inside your muscle cells, they use them to make the protein and display it on their surface, according to Pfizer. Your immune system spots the protein, recognizes it as foreign and begins to make antibodies.

Like other vaccines, the one designed to protect you from COVID-19 prompts your immune system to produce antibodies, just as if you had been exposed to the virus.  How this one differs from traditional vaccines is in its use of mRNA. Instead of a weakened or an inactivated germ into your body, this vaccine injects mRNA, the genetic material that our cells read to make proteins, into your upper arm muscle.

This particular mRNA is programmed with the instructions your cells need to make a replica of the the “spike protein” found on the surface of the Corona Virus. Your body responds by making this “spike protein” on the surface of the cell which then triggers your immune system to make antibodies against the protein. Through these coded instructions the mRNA moves into your cells and teaches your body how to make the protein that triggers antibody production so if the real virus later enters your body, your immune system will recognize it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[5]

Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells? (6)

Answer from infectious diseases expert James Lawler, MD

No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any aborted fetal cells. However, Pfizer and Moderna did perform confirmation tests (to ensure the vaccines work) using fetal cell lines.

But it’s important to have the full context: Fetal cell lines are not the same as fetal tissue. Fetal cell lines are cells that grow in a laboratory. They descend from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. Those individual cells from the 1970s and 1980s have since multiplied into many new cells over the past four or five decades, creating fetal cell lines. Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue.

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use, neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines used fetal cell lines during the development or production phases. (So, no fetal cell lines were used to manufacture the vaccine, and they are not inside the injection you receive from your doctor.) However, both companies used the fetal cell line HEK 293 in the confirmation phase to ensure the vaccines work. All HEK 293 cells are descended from tissue taken from a 1973 elective abortion that took place in the Netherlands.

Answer from Oxford development team:  According to the University of Oxford development team, the original Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cells were taken from the kidney of an aborted fetus in 1973, but the cells used now are clones of the original cells. “What’s important for the public to know even if they are opposed to the use of fetal cells for therapies, these medicines that are being made and vaccines do not contain any aspect of the cells in them,” Dr. Deepak Srivastava, president of Gladstone Institutes and former president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, said.

Vatican: Without alternatives, current COVID-19 vaccines are morally acceptable (7)

The congregation repeated the Vatican’s call on pharmaceutical companies and governmental agencies to produce, approve and distribute ethically acceptable vaccines, that is, without using morally compromised cell lines at all. The doctrinal office also said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”From an ethical point of view, “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good,” it added. If there are no other means to stop or prevent an epidemic, the congregation said, “the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”

Those who wish, for “reasons of conscience,” to refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, “must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission” of the virus.

In other words, if you are choosing not to accept the vaccine out of religious principle, or moral/ethical concerns then you have an equally important moral and ethical responsibility to ensure you avail yourself of all means to prevent yourself from transmitting the virus to others.  This means wearing masks, and social distancing and if concerned you may have been exposed, quarantining yourself.

They must avoid putting at risk the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and who are the most vulnerable, it said.


This material was obtained and credited to the resource links printed below and the only credit I can take for any of this information, is splicing it together in a manner that is helpful in understanding it. My recommendation is for everyone to do their own research.  I just wanted to dispel the myths associated with embryonic involvement in the development stage and the notion that embryonic tissue was part of the vaccine.  Neither vaccine relies on embryonic tissue or cells to be produced.  Hopefully you will find this useful in making your decision.

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