I have heard from several anti-vax moms who claim that "aborted fetal cells" are present in vaccines. I also hear from them that "monkey cells" are in vaccines (I know this may be a component of the vaccine against avian bird flue, not a vaccine we routinely get here in the States). Could you speak to this so I have an informed response to this claim? Thank you!!
the "fetal cells in vaccines" are one of my most-loathed gambits. This is clearly formulated to put parents off vaccines. The truth is:
Vaccines are cell free!
However, the myth has a vague relation to reality - in order to obtain the vaccine viruses, you need to use cell cultures (viruses need the replication machinery of cells to reproduce, this allows them to "travel light", the simplest virus getting by with only 3 genes).
Among those cell culture, there are some that have been developed from tissue of one of two aborted fetuses and also a line from monkey kidney.
The two human cell lines are the WI-38, derived from lung fibroblasts of a female fetus, aborted in Sweden because "the family felt they had too many children" and MRC-5, derived from a male fetus aborted in the UK for psychiatric reasons. The WI-38 line was developed in 1962, the MRC-5 line in 1966, so it is not like babies are aborted all the time for ongoing vaccine production, like the anti-vaccine people would like to imply with their phrasing.
These two cell lines are used in the production of rubella vaccine, included in the MMR2 and Priorix MMR vaccines. MRC-5 is also used in the production of Varivax (varicella vaccine), Havrix and VAQTA (hepatitis A), Poliovax (polio), and Imovax (rabies).
The "monkey cells" refer to the Vero cell line (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vero_cell), similar story, a cell line derived from monkey kidney in 1962 and used since for vaccine virus production. No monkey being bred and ground into vaccine vials (sorry for the snark).
So the cell lines are infected with the virus, they produce the virus and release it into the culture medium, the viruses, much smaller than any cell, are then filtered off for vaccine production (hence, the vaccine is cell free).