Author Topic: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines  (Read 792 times)

Online Arvinger

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Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« on: April 13, 2021, 08:40:21 AM »
Much is being said about moral question associated with the use of the Covid-19 vaccines developed with the use of cells from aborted fetuses, but much of it is not grounded in a serious debate based on Catholic moral principles. Now, I understand that there are many other concerns regarding the Covid-19 vaccines - doubts over the safety of the mRNA vaccines, lack of long-term research, possible shady reasons for their introduction driven by behind-the-scenes forces, etc. However, here I want to set all of that aside and focus solely on the question of moral principles in regard to taking the Covid-19 vaccines.

Well, I'm not convinced by the main moral argument against the use of these vaccines at all. Usually it goes something like this. There are two kinds of cooperation with evil - formal and material. While formal cooperation with evil is always forbidden and cannot be morally justified, in some situations material cooperation with evil can be excusable due to being very distant (for example, paying taxes to the State, some of which will be used for immoral purposes, or buying food from companies which might be involved in immoral actions). The argument then goes, that the crime of abortion is so serious, that no material cooperation with it, however distant, can be tolerated. This view is expressed by Bishop Schneider in his letter regarding the Covid vaccines:

The theological principle of material cooperation is certainly valid and may be applied to a whole host of cases (e.g. in paying taxes, the use of products made from slave labor, and so on). However, this principle can hardly be applied to the case of vaccines made from fetal cell lines, because those who knowingly and voluntarily receive such vaccines enter into a kind of concatenation, albeit very remote, with the process of the abortion industry. The crime of abortion is so monstrous that any kind of concatenation with this crime, even a very remote one, is immoral and cannot be accepted under any circumstances by a Catholic once he has become fully aware of it. One who uses these vaccines must realize that his body is benefitting from the “fruits” (although steps removed through a series of chemical processes) of one of mankind’s greatest crimes.
http://web.colby.edu/coronaguidance/2020/12/11/schneider-vaccines/

I'm not convinced by his argument because I don't see how there is material cooperation with evil here at all. The HEK 293 fetal cells used to develop the vaccines come from few abortions (or even a single one, various sources differ here) done in the 1970s. That happened decades ago - how is it possible to cooperate with something that happened in the past? It is impossible. "Cooperation" necessarily implies faciliating something or providing some sort of assistance in something. You cannot faciliate or assist something that happened in the past and is finished. The argument would be sound if cells from new abortions were being used and that the vaccine research and development would thus create an additional demand for these kinds of cells and thus increase the revenue of Planned Parenthood and their likes, and perhaps increase number of abortions being made. That is not the case.

Let me use an analogy. Suppose I'm working in Auschwitz-Birkenau museum and I make my money and living of it. The concentration camp functioned 75 years ago and is thing of the past. Nonetheless, without Nazis creating this camp and commiting horrible crimes in it, my workplace would not exist and I would not be able to earn money by working there. Following the reasoning which Bishop Schneider presented in the above quote, by earning money from working in the Nazi concentration camp, I "enter into a kind of concatenation, albeit very remote, with the process of killing Jews and Poles". I benefit from what the Germans did during WW2 and am guilty of "material cooperation" with the crimes commited in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Obviously, such a notion is utterly absurd.

I don't see any principled moral difference between these cases. In both, immoral acts took place in distant past (1940s and 1970s) and are not being furthered or faciliated by the actions in question (taking of Covid-19 vaccines does not result in more abortions being made and Auschwitz-Birkenau camp being open for tourism does not result in new crimes being commited). In both cases, good is being derived from the results of those immoral actions - the former German concentration camp gives employment to many people and boosts local economy by increasing tourist revenue, and the vaccines developed with the use of fetal cells protect us from the virus (for the sake of argument let's assume that Covid-19 vaccines are benefitial - as I wrote at the beginning, I want to examine solely the moral principles here, not the safety or necessity of the vaccines etc.). In both cases, the actions in question do not constitute approval of evil actions that happened in the past (making money from working in Auschwitz-Birkenau does not mean support for the Nazi Germany, taking Covid-19 vaccine does not mean support for abortion).

To conclude, it is not possible to "materially cooperate" with something that happened in the past (cooperation = faciliation, assistance), and the principle which Bishop Schneider seems to employ (taking advantage of consequences of evil actions always constitutes material cooperation with evil) is incorrect.         

Furthermore, even if we accepted Bishop Schneider's understanding of the principle of material cooperation (which I believe to be fallacious, for the reasons explained above) and his claim that because abortion is such a serious crime, no cooperation with it, however distant, can be tolerated, the reality is that there are actions which are excused by the principle of material cooperation which contribute much more to the crimes of abortion. An example would be paying taxes - money from your taxes is being used to perform abortions right now, and thus directly contributes to increasing the death toll of unborn babies. That is much more proximate and meaningful material cooperation with evil than any supposed "material cooperation" by taking Covid-19 vaccine (which is not material cooperation at all). 
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 08:51:27 AM by Arvinger »
 
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Offline Jayne

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2021, 10:11:55 AM »
This article, https://www.crisismagazine.com/2021/why-i-signed-to-awaken-conscience by Michael Pakaluk, a philosophy professor,  makes a similar point:

Quote
First, we need to clear up some confusions involving Liguori’s distinction, from his Theologia Moralis, between “formal” and “material” cooperation. That distinction is useful only when cooperation is verified, and one wants to know what sort of cooperation it is. The word co-operation means to assist (“co-”) in some present or future undertaking (“operatio”).  Therefore, Liguori’s distinction cannot apply to any action completed in the past, and, in particular, it cannot be applied to abortions done in the past. This is clear not only from the meaning of the words themselves, but also from Liguori’s cases, all of which concern present or future undertakings; for example: can a servant assist his master with his horse who is starting out on a visit to a courtesan? (see III.iii.2, qq. 59-80).

This author makes a moral case against the vaccines that does not depend on treating them as material cooperation with abortion.   Do you think that his argument is better?
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Online Daniel

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2021, 11:12:13 AM »
Seems part of this is semantic. I am not sure what St. Alphonsus Liguori's distinction entails, but would the argument work any better if we were to replace the word "cooperation" with "participation"? Even if you can't cooperate with some past action (debatable), you can certainly participate in it.


Regarding the counterexample:

You say we should go modus tollens (and are using this as a sort of argumentum absurdum), but maybe we ought to just go modus ponens instead, and admit, "Yeah, it's wrong to make money by exhibiting Holocaust paraphernalia"?

Now not to sidetrack the discussion, and I haven't given this much thought, but I kind of think it might be wrong to make money through the exhibition of things in general. Take an art museum, for example. The beauty in the art is transcendent and divine, certainly not the property of any one individual or even the whole human race collectively. So what right does the museum have in charging admission? They can reasonably charge admission in order to cover their operating expenses, but they should not charge admission as a means of holding the artwork's beauty hostage from the general public, nor should they monopolize the artwork and arbitrarily charge whatever they want, knowing that museum-goers have no choice in the matter so long as they want to see the art.

Same goes for academic journals, and any books and films that contain valuable information. The information contained within these works ought to be available free of charge. (This is why I am of the opinion that copyright laws are generally evil, unjust, and oppressive. They interfere with learning and creativity, in order that one private party may profit through a sort of artificial and unnecessary monopoly.)

The same, then, would follow for Holocaust paraphernalia, and for anything of historical interest. The Holocaust museum is then not making money off of the Holocaust, nor in any way participating in the sins of the Holocaust, but is, rather, making certain artifacts available to the general public's viewing, out of historical interest, while charging a fee in order to cover its own expenses.
(The line is a little blurry though, if this museum is in the business of profiting off food and souvenirs. Because though there are no direct profits associated with the exhibition of Holocaust items, the museum is nevertheless using these items as bait in order to lure in potential customers.)
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 11:31:22 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline diaduit

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2021, 11:49:20 AM »
How is it remote when you, the consumer are paying (through taxes) for a product and rewarding the same company for their actions with profit.  You are giving full consent to your Dr to use the product on you directly with your money.  Its not remote at all.
And I don't give a fig for Vatican II declarations on this matter.
 
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Offline Jayne

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2021, 12:12:08 PM »
How is it remote when you, the consumer are paying (through taxes) for a product and rewarding the same company for their actions with profit.

Because the company did not perform the abortion.  They used a cell line developed from cells taken from an murdered baby 30 years ago.

Quote
You are giving full consent to your Dr to use the product on you directly with your money.  Its not remote at all.

In Canada, we do not pay our doctors directly and have little to no say in what products they use. The government decides what it will authorize and pay for.  This is not a situation of full consent.  (There is a comparable situation in the US because of the way medical insurance works.)
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Online Arvinger

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2021, 12:15:36 PM »
Thank you for the quote and link to the article Jayne.

Professor Pakaluk presents a correct understanding of the principle of material cooperation (which Bishop Schneider did not) and correctly points out that taking Covid-19 vaccine cannot be material cooperation with abortion itself. I think his argument is more consistent with definitions, but I'm still not fully convinced (albeit I'm open to arguments). His main point, if I understand correctly, is that the evil involved is not limited to abortion itself (which we cannot cooperate with, since it was finished in the past), but the actions done later in the labs which are being done to this day. In other words, what is wrong is not only abortion itself, but current research as well.

Quote
But surely, then, Van Ep’s production of the cell line, and the eventual marketing and sale of the cells (see HEK293.com), is an incomplete action in the past, the first half of a reciprocal exchange, which is completed now in the present by anyone who purchases and uses those cells, and which amounts to formal cooperation in Van Ep’s depraved purposes and acts.

It is not intrinsically immoral to do research on samples taken from human remains or using them in a number of other ways. Transplanting an organ from murdered person's body to someone who needs it can be licit. Doing archaeological and anthropological research on the Neolithic or Bronze Age cemeteries to study prehistoric cultures can be licit. Likewise, using human cells to develop cell lines to create a vaccine is not intrinsically evil either. What makes research and developing vaccine on these cells problematic is, therefore, not mere fact that the scientists worked on samples of human cells, but the way these cells were obtained. Suppose the girl who was aborted in 1972 died not because of abortion, but miscarriage and her parents wished samples from her body to be used for scientific research. Would Van Ep's acts and purposes still be "depraved"? No. Therefore, the evil lies in abortion and obtaining the samples in illicit way, not the mere fact of using human cells. We have already established that any cooperation with the 1972 abortion is impossible today. Looks like Prof. Pakaluk concedes that the question of cooperation with abortion itself (which is the main argument raised against Covid-19 vaccines) does not even enter the moral question here.

Now, is the claim that what Van Ep did "is an incomplete action in the past, the first half of a reciprocal exchange, which is completed now in the present by anyone who purchases and uses those cells" correct? That seems highly doubtful to me - research on human cell lines is not intrinsically evil in itself, if the material is obtained in licit way there is no problem. So, what is problematic is not what the scientists in this day are doing to develop the vaccine, but what has been done in 1972 (abortion and obtaining the samples in illicit way), which are both finished actions of the past which cannot be cooperated with. I see obtaining material in illicit way as a different action than subsequent use of that material by people not associated with obtaining it. Otherwise any future use of goods obtained or discoveries made by someone in illicit way would be illicit - sometimes it is (for example, if I buy an item knowing that it was stolen and refuse to return it to righful owner), but it is not always the case.

But let's assume Prof. Pakaluk is right. Still, there can be no question of material cooperation with abortion (which he seems to concede) which is the main argument raised against the Covid-19 vaccines. So, if abortion is out of the picture, why can't the principle of material cooperation (which allows us to pay taxes to leftist governments, buy clothes produced by slaves in Asia, etc.) be employed here?

Concluding, I think Prof. Pakaluk makes a better case than Bishop Schneider, albeit I don't think it is fully convincing.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 12:17:29 PM by Arvinger »
 
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Offline Jayne

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2021, 12:25:07 PM »
Concluding, I think Prof. Pakaluk makes a better case than Bishop Schneider, albeit I don't think it is fully convincing.

This was also my conclusion.  I would like to see how Prof Pakaluk would respond to your argument.
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Online Arvinger

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2021, 12:28:07 PM »
Seems part of this is semantic. I am not sure what St. Alphonsus Liguori's distinction entails, but would the argument work any better if we were to replace the word "cooperation" with "participation"? Even if you can't cooperate with some past action (debatable), you can certainly participate in it.

How can you participate in something that has already happened and ended? 

Regarding the counterexample:

You say we should go modus tollens (and are using this as a sort of argumentum absurdum), but maybe we ought to just go modus ponens instead, and admit, "Yeah, it's wrong to make money by exhibiting Holocaust paraphernalia"?

Now not to sidetrack the discussion, and I haven't given this much thought, but I kind of think it might be wrong to make money through the exhibition of things in general. Take an art museum, for example. The beauty in the art is transcendent and divine, certainly not the property of any one individual or even the whole human race collectively. So what right does the museum have in charging admission? They can reasonably charge admission in order to cover their operating expenses, but they should not charge admission as a means of holding the artwork's beauty hostage from the general public, nor should they monopolize the artwork and arbitrarily charge whatever they want, knowing that museum-goers have no choice in the matter so long as they want to see the art.

Same goes for academic journals, and any books and films that contain valuable information. The information contained within these works ought to be available free of charge. (This is why I am of the opinion that copyright laws are generally evil, unjust, and oppressive. They interfere with learning and creativity, in order that one private party may profit through a sort of artificial and unnecessary monopoly.)

The same, then, would follow for Holocaust paraphernalia, and for anything of historical interest. The Holocaust museum is then not making money off of the Holocaust, nor in any way participating in the sins of the Holocaust, but is, rather, making certain artifacts available to the general public's viewing, out of historical interest, while charging a fee in order to cover its own expenses.
(The line is a little blurry though, if this museum is in the business of profiting off food and souvenirs. Because though there are no direct profits associated with the exhibition of Holocaust items, the museum is nevertheless using these items as bait in order to lure in potential customers.)

I think you missed my point. What I meant is whether exhibiting historical objects and sites related to the Holocaust and making money of it constitutes material cooperation with Nazis in the Holocaust. As you correctly say in the bolded part, it does not, even though the Museum and its employees directly benefit from the concentration camp and its history - it is impossible to cooperate with something that happened in the past. Therefore, I do not see any way one could cooperate today with abortion done in 1972. It also demonstrates that it is not always wrong to take advantage of results of past evil actions. 
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 12:30:58 PM by Arvinger »
 
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Offline Jayne

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2021, 12:46:16 PM »
Seems part of this is semantic. I am not sure what St. Alphonsus Liguori's distinction entails, but would the argument work any better if we were to replace the word "cooperation" with "participation"? Even if you can't cooperate with some past action (debatable), you can certainly participate in it.

I don't think it is a semantic problem.  I think there is a fundamental problem with analyzing this issue within a Liguorian framework.  It does not seem to be the right tool for the job.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 12:48:07 PM by Jayne »
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Online Daniel

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2021, 07:54:14 PM »
How can you participate in something that has already happened and ended? 

Well my initial thought was that you become a participant in the other person's sin as soon as you will the other person's sin. It doesn't matter whether this is a sin currently in progress, or a past sin still in progress, or even a past sin no longer in progress.

On second thought, maybe you don't participate in it. Maybe you simply commit a new sin by willing the past evil.

As you correctly say in the bolded part, it does not, even though the Museum and its employees directly benefit from the concentration camp and its history - it is impossible to cooperate with something that happened in the past.

My point was that if the Museum did benefit from the past evil, and if it did this willfully, then it would in some way be guilty of sin.

An analogy is this: Suppose somebody committed some injustice against me, and I wanted revenge. If I sought out the offender and killed him, I would be guilty of murder. Likewise, if I hired a hitman to do it for me then I would still be guilty of murder. But suppose somebody informs me that the offender was murdered last week. If I take pleasure in the murder, or if I retroactively will it, then surely I somehow enter into the sin. Even though it happened last week and I wasn't in on it at the time.

(Come to think of it, however, I think the same can be said of a situation where I find out that that the offender was killed last week in an accident. Nobody sinned last week: it was an accident. But I sin today, because I will the offender's death and because I take pleasure in the news of his death. So maybe it's not so much a case of participating in a past sin, as it is a case of me committing a new sin.)

So I don't know. And I guess I'm backing out of this thread.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 08:00:05 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Jayne

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2021, 03:45:53 PM »
Seems part of this is semantic. I am not sure what St. Alphonsus Liguori's distinction entails, but would the argument work any better if we were to replace the word "cooperation" with "participation"? Even if you can't cooperate with some past action (debatable), you can certainly participate in it.

I don't think it is a semantic problem.  I think there is a fundamental problem with analyzing this issue within a Liguorian framework.  It does not seem to be the right tool for the job.

I have come across an article from a theology journal which addresses the problem we are discussing: http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/61/61.2/61.2.4.pdf


Quote
The author argues that the category of cooperation of evil needs to
be supplemented by a new category of appropriation of evil. Cooperation focuses on agents who must decide whether to perform an
act that contributes to the morally objectionable action of another.
In contrast, appropriation concentrates on the “mirror image” problem faced by agents who must decide whether to make use of the
fruits of another agent’s morally objectionable action. She suggests
that the new category better illuminates problems involved in research using fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions, the purchase of goods made in sweatshops, and some affiliations between
Catholic health care facilities and those that perform procedures
prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives.

This was written in 2000, before there was a Vatican statement on morality of vaccines using the "cooperation with evil" framework.  The author identifies that same problem that Arvinger has described with this framework and proposes an alternative.  While this isn't authoritative at all, it is an interesting line of speculation.   It is rather long (34 pages) but perhaps Arvinger would appreciate it.

The main problem I see with adopting an alternative, no matter how elegant, is that there no tradition behind it.  While "cooperation with evil" was developed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri and used by Catholic theologians for hundreds of years, this new framework is a novelty.  Even though the vaccine issue does not really fit the traditional framework, we could acknowledge this and neverthelless use it by way of analogy.
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Offline TradGranny

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2021, 03:57:52 PM »

The HEK 293 fetal cells used to develop the vaccines come from few abortions (or even a single one, various sources differ here) done in the 1970s. That happened decades ago - how is it possible to cooperate with something that happened in the past?

Two falsities are being widely spread.

1. That only one or a few babies were killed. Not true. Whistle blower Pamela Acker who worked in a Bill Gates funded lab is on record that 100s of elective abortions are performed for EACH cell line.

2. That the babies were killed over 50s years ago. Not true for all vaccines. More babies are being killed to produce new cell lines. Here's one example from a 2015 medical journal article in Pub Med:

“We have developed a new HDCS, Walvax-2, which we derived from the lung tissue of a 3-month-old fetus.”
 
The article is titled: Characteristics and viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line, Walvax-2, and its suitability as a candidate cell substrate for vaccine production

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25803132/

The truth is that  babies continue to be killed to create new cell lines.




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Offline TradGranny

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2021, 04:09:43 PM »
there are actions which are excused by the principle of material cooperation which contribute much more to the crimes of abortion. An example would be paying taxes - money from your taxes is being used to perform abortions right now, and thus directly contributes to increasing the death toll of unborn babies. That is much more proximate and meaningful material cooperation with evil than any supposed "material cooperation" by taking Covid-19 vaccine (which is not material cooperation at all).

When a person places his or her perceived welfare above that of other human beings who have been killed in the past and, IF accepted by the public, will be killed in the future -- that is material cooperation with evil.

If Catholics, Protestants and other pro-lifers refuse to use a product developed or produced by violating the child's right to remain alive, that is, if we refuse to cooperate with evil, the pharmaceutical corporations will be pressured to produce alternatives based on animal cell lines. (This is occurring now.)

If people refuse to pay their taxes, they are doing nothing to help babies.
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Offline Jayne

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2021, 05:36:47 PM »

The HEK 293 fetal cells used to develop the vaccines come from few abortions (or even a single one, various sources differ here) done in the 1970s. That happened decades ago - how is it possible to cooperate with something that happened in the past?

Two falsities are being widely spread.

1. That only one or a few babies were killed. Not true. Whistle blower Pamela Acker who worked in a Bill Gates funded lab is on record that 100s of elective abortions are performed for EACH cell line.

2. That the babies were killed over 50s years ago. Not true for all vaccines. More babies are being killed to produce new cell lines. Here's one example from a 2015 medical journal article in Pub Med:

“We have developed a new HDCS, Walvax-2, which we derived from the lung tissue of a 3-month-old fetus.”
 
The article is titled: Characteristics and viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line, Walvax-2, and its suitability as a candidate cell substrate for vaccine production

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25803132/

The truth is that  babies continue to be killed to create new cell lines.

You seem to be looking at use of abortion derived cell lines in vaccines as a general ongoing systemic problem.  That may be a legitimate approach, but other people are talking about one specific cell line, HEK293, that is used in some of the Covid vaccines.  It is a fact that this cell line originates from one aborted baby who was killed around 50 years ago.

You may be able to make an argument that it is better to look at abortion derived vaccines as a systemic problem, rather than looking at Covid vaccines in isolation.  But dismissing perfectly true statements about HEK293 as falsities is not the way to make your case.
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Offline TradGranny

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Re: Morality of taking Covid-19 vaccines
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2021, 07:11:31 PM »
It is a fact that this cell line originates from one aborted baby who was killed around 50 years ago.

It is a fact based on Wikipedia?

You hold Wikipedia to be more reliable than vaccine researcher Pamela Acker?

Let's bring in another scientist who worked on vaccines.

While each individual cell line contains the cells of just one baby, many aborted babies are used in the process of creating a cell line.[4] For example, under oath, scientist Stanley Plotkin admitted that there were 76 aborted babies used in just one vaccine study.[5]

https://stateofthenation.co/?p=59522



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