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New Human Fetal Cell Line Available for Vaccine Production

By Marco Caceres via TheVaccineReaction

Since the 1960s, a number of vaccines have been manufactured using “human-diploid fibroblast cell cultures”—cells from tissue of aborted human fetuses.1 2 3 4 5 They include the following 11 vaccines listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary table:

  • Adenovirus

  • DTaP-IPV/Hib (Pentacel)

  • DTaP-IPV (Quadracel)

  • Hep A (Havrix)

  • Hep A (Vaqta)

  • Hep A/Hep B (Twinrix)

  • MMR (MMR-II)

  • MMRV (ProQuad)

  • Rabies (Imovax)

  • Varicella (Varivax)

  • Zoster (Shingles – Zostavax).6

The aborted human fetal cell cultures are used for growing viruses, which are then used in the preparation of inactivated and live virus vaccines. Viruses for vaccines are also grown on other kinds cultures such as chicken embryos or from cells from different animals and bugs, such as army worms, but, according to the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii), “human cells are preferred because cells derived from animal organs sometimes may carry animal viruses that could harm people.”1 5 7 8 9 10

There are two specific human cell lines that are used in vaccine production. The first one is known as the Wistar Institute-38 or “WI-38”. The second is the Medical Research Council -5 or “MRC-5”.

The WI-38 cell line was developed in July 1962 from “lung tissue taken from a therapeutically aborted [female] fetus of about 3 months gestational age.” The MRC-5 cell line was developed September 1966 from “lung tissue taken from a 14 week [male] fetus aborted for psychiatric reason from a 27 year old physically healthy woman.”3 4

According to Joseph Mercola, DO, WI-38 and MRC-5 are the two “primary cell cultures” that have been used to make hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for more than half a century.10 However, there is now a third aborted human fetal cell culture that may be used. It is called Walvax-2, and it has been assessed as a culture for growing rabies, hepatitis, and Varicella viruses.11

A study published in the journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics in 2015 confirmed the development of Walvax-2 by China’s pharmaceutical industry. The source tissue for the cell line was obtained from nine fetuses through “rigorous screening based on carefully specified inclusion criteria.”11

The study’s authors noted, “The tissues from the freshly aborted fetuses were immediately sent to the laboratory for the preparation of the cells.”

The Walvax-2 strain of cells met all of these criteria and proved to be the best cell line following careful evaluation. Therefore it was used for establishing a human diploid cell strain. Walvax-2 was derived from a fetal lung tissue, similar to WI-38 and MRC-5, and was obtained from a 3-month old female fetus aborted because of the presence of a uterine scar from a previous caesarean birth by a 27-year old healthy woman.11

The source tissue was provided by Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Yunnan Hospital in China.11 Relatively little additional information about Walvax-2 is available from public sources. It is not clear, for example, how the name was derived or what government agency or company is leading the research and the possible application of the cell line to vaccine production.

It is worth noting, though, that there is a major vaccine manufacturer called Walvax Biotechnology Co., Ltd. in the city of Kunming in the Chinese province of Yunnan. It is a private firm whose products include haemophilus influenza type b conjugate vaccines, meningococcal polysaccharide conjugate vaccines, and blood products.12 13


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