Are Fetal Cells Used to Make COVID-19 Vaccines?

Dr. Paul Offit talks about fetal cells and COVID-19 vaccines.


Are fetal cells used to make COVID-19 vaccines?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. One question that we get is, are these COVID vaccines, the mRNA vaccines, for example, made by Pfizer and Moderna, or the vectored virus vaccine that's made by Johnson & Johnson, are they made using fetal cells?

So, the answer to that question is the two mRNA vaccines are not made using fetal cells. At no point in the production process of that vaccine, meaning when the vaccine is made and then put into the vile, does that include fetal cells.

On the other hand, for Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, so although that particular vectored virus does not reproduce itself in you, what the company needed to do was they needed to be able to grow up the virus. So, they had a particular cell line that was originally derived from fetal cells, which allowed them then to grow that virus up in laboratory. But nonetheless, when the virus was produced, it still couldn't reproduce itself, but they needed those specialized cells, which were in part derived from a termination of pregnancy in the mid-1980s. So, the cells that were used are certainly decades old, and they're probably still are some, there is still some residual fetal cell material in that vaccine, but you're talking at the level of billionth of a gram, so it's very, very, very, very tiny amounts. But there are fetal cells that were used in the production process of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Feb 17, 2022