Clerics and Jim Wells meet Department of Health to press for Covid vaccines ‘which have no link to abortion’

A delegation of clergy has met with the Department of Health to lobby for the introduction of new Covid-19 vaccines which have not been tested with cells descended from those taken from a foetus in the 1970s.

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 3:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 8:45 pm

The clergy were led by former health Minister Jim Wells, who has himself refused to be vaccinated until a jab becomes available that he finds ethically acceptable.

The Department of Health (DOH) was represented by senior officials including the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Michael McBride and the Chief Scientific Advisor, Ian Young.

The church delegation was Rev Ivan Foster, the former Minister of Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church, Rev Daniel Henderson of Moneyslane Free Presbyterian Church, Mr Peter Johnston, an elder in Portadown Independent Methodist Church and Rev Brian McClung from Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church.

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Embargoed to 0001 Friday August 28 File photo dated 5/10/2009 of a nurse preparing a syringe. Parents whose babies will be vaccinated against meningitis are being urged to buy paracetamol to stave off a fever linked to the jab. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday August 28, 2015. Babies will be given the new meningitis B vaccine from September 1 and are likely to suffer a fever that can last a few days. Experts said the fever shows the body is responding to the new vaccine, which is called Bexsero. See PA story HEALTH meningitis. Photo credit should read: David Cheskin/PA Wire

“The main purpose of the meeting was to register the concern of many people in Northern Ireland who feel unable to avail of the three coronavirus vaccines currently offered by the Department of Health because they are tested on the cell lines of aborted children,” the delegation said in a statement.

They added: “The church members present opposed the view often quoted that the baby who was used to develop the vaccines was aborted in the 1970s and that was considered to be long enough ago to be dismissed and forgotten.”

The delegation asked the DOH to instroduce vaccines such as Covaxin and Sinopharm which they said are recognised by the World Health Organisation and have had “no connection with abortion” and are in use in 90 countries

The delegation reported that the The Chief Scientific Officer urged them to be vaccinated but did accept that there was a “distant and remote” link between the three vaccines used in NI and abortion.

Mr Young said, they reported, that it was up to the manufacturers of Covaxin and Sinopharm to approach the UK’s independent regulator of medicines (HMRA) to apply for authorisation to market their product in the UK - and that the DOH could not do this.

The statement said that the Scottish Government is considering the procurement of another ethical vaccine, Valneva, to protect people from Covid.

Mr Wells agreed that foetal cell lines were not used in the creation of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines but said that the DOH had accepted in the meeting that such cells were used to test the vaccines after they had been produced.

Responding to the statement, the DOH confirmed that “constructive and detailed discussions were held” with the delegation.

“The Department continues to encourage everyone in NI to get vaccinated without delay to benefit from the protection which the available vaccines provide,” it said.

“Any link between any vaccine development and abortions is incidental and remote. It has involved the use of cell lines grown in labs, having been replicated from fetal cells obtained decades earlier. These cell lines can survive indefinitely in the laboratory, and in their current form have only a very remote link to the original cells.  Their continued use in relation to vaccines and cancer research does not lead to a demand for more fetal tissue.”

The News Letter asked the Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland denominations whether they had any view on the fact that foetal cell lines had been used in testing the three vaccines. None of them had offered any comment at the time of going to press. The Presbyterian Church clarified it had never made any comment on the issue.

In December last year Rev Malcom Duncan of Dundonald Elim Pentecostal Church published a detailed blog on the issue, coauthored with his wife Debbie, a lecturer in Nursing at Queens University and Chris Shaw, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacy at Queens University.

Writing 12 months ago, Mr Duncan said he would have prefered a vaccine that had not used human cell lines. “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.

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