Coronavirus: Theologian addresses ethics of ‘foetal cell lines’ and says he will take vaccine

A Co Down pastor and theologian says he will not hesitate to take a Coronavirus vaccine despite some ethical concerns.

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 10:52 am

Rev Malcom Duncan of Dundonald Elim Pentecostal church has published a detailed entry on his blog, coauthored with his wife Debbie, a lecturer in Nursing at Queens University and Chris Shaw, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacy at Queens University.

“We wrote this piece because so many people were contacting me from across the world,” said Mr Duncan, who is ‘pro-life’ in theology.

“Because I am a public theologian, they were asking whether they should take a vaccine in light of the claims that they were made using cells from aborted foetuses.”

However the trio concluded that the three leading vaccines, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, were all tested using “foetal cell lines”. These do not come directly from foetuses, they said, but are grown in labs from cells taken from a foetus in the 1970s. Despite strenuous efforts, they were not able to determine whether the foetus had been aborted or not.

Mr and Mrs Duncan hope to take the Astrazeneca vaccine as it will be the most accessible globally, while Prof Shaw will take any of the three.

Mr Duncan would have prefered a vaccine that had not used human cell lines, noting that there are other vaccines in development in China and the US which do not use them. Some are tested instead on monkeys cells and others or human cells harvested from placentas or umbilical cords, however these are all much further away from completion.

“But if waiting for these will put people in danger or mean that the restrictions people have faced will continue to cause negative impacts on well-being, then I will receive a vaccine that has involved human cell lines,” he added.

QUB Emeritus Prof of Virology Bert Rima responded that for anyone wanting to avoid foetal cell lines “almost all of modern medicine is taboo”. He added: “There are many vaccines in development which use monkey cells and others, but these will probably not be licensed for quite a while.” The Department of Health was invited to comment.

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