Eric Failing from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conferences has received the following updates and clarifications from the USCCB regarding developing Covid-19 vaccines:
First, regarding the progress toward a vaccine, while there are more than a hundred proposals underway, perhaps the most relevant list of proposals is the one the Trump Administration has chosen to focus on with its Operation Warp Speed (OWS) vaccine project. Here we have some good news regarding concerns about proposals connected to aborted fetal cell lines. Among the current list (it could continue to grow), 5 of the 8 proposals are considered to be “ethical” based on expert scientific analysis concluding that they did not rely upon aborted fetal cells for their design, nor do they use such cells in their production. The other three are deemed “unethical” because they utilize aborted fetal cell lines in their production. The expert analysis comes from Dr. David Prentice and his fellow scholars at the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) and can be seen in this excellent document: An Ethics Assessment of COVID-19 Vaccine Programs. Another excellent and helpful CLI document is A Visual Aid to Viral Infection and Vaccine Production.
What follows is the OWS list of proposals with the funding each has received so far from the government. As you can see, the “ethical” proposals are currently getting almost 4 times more funding than the “unethical” proposals (Vaxart is the most recent addition and hasn’t yet received funding). Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that an ethical vaccine will be the first across the finish line, but our advocacy is focused on pushing for at least one ethical vaccine to be made available.
Ethical: Novavax ($1.6B); Moderna ($954.9M); Merck ($38M); Sanofi ($2.07B); Pfizer-BioNTech ($1.95B) for a total of $6.5B.
Unethical: J&J ($456M); AstraZenca ($1.2B); Vaxart ($0) for a total of $1.65B.
Second, some of you noted following Lauren’s presentation that you had heard some controversy regarding categorizing Moderna’s proposal as ethical. Dr. Prentice and other science experts have reviewed the Moderna proposal and concluded that: 1) its design did not rely upon aborted fetal cells; 2) its production does not utilize aborted fetal cells. Below is my simplified explanation of Moderna’s COVID vaccine proposal that is based on information from Dr. Prentice and has been reviewed by him for accuracy. In addition, ethicists have examined the explanation below and have found it satisfactory.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Explanation of Moderna’s COVID vaccine proposal:
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine candidate is composed of a lipid particle (oil droplet) containing genetic instructions (mRNA) that merge with a person’s cells to deliver the instructions inside the cell. Those instructions tell the cell how to make a viral spike protein (a “flag”) which is either displayed on the outside of the cell or secreted into the blood and body fluids. Our immune cells see this viral protein, recognize it as foreign, and create antibodies against it. These antibodies are then stockpiled and ready to attack an actual virus should it invade our body.
The supposed connection to aborted fetal cell lines in patents does not cite the correct Moderna patent related to its vaccines, and the cites in the incorrect patent are to research concept examples unrelated to the actual vaccine production. Some Moderna collaborators (NIAID/UT) did use abortion-derived HEK293 cells to produce viral spike protein to test its shape and antibody binding, but their test did not determine the design or production of the nucleic acid sequence, and in fact was done only after Moderna had already determined the genetic sequence needed, developed their mRNA sequence vaccine, and begun production of the mRNA vaccine. Moderna is not producing a spike protein for its vaccine, nor does it use cell lines (aborted fetal cell or otherwise) in the production of this mRNA vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine is mRNA (instructions) that tells the body how to produce its own spike protein. Bottom line, Moderna vaccine production does not utilize aborted fetal cells and its design did not rely upon aborted fetal cells.
Eric A. Failing Executive Director
Pennsylvania Catholic Conference
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Harrisburg, PA 17105
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