Blog Misinformation

Fetal DNA in vaccines?

Reuters’ article “Fact Check – J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine does not contain aborted fetal cells” follows a classic approach taken in many areas: set up a straw man, or several even, and then destroy them — argument won, case closed. Except it’s not.

Straw men

  1. In the article the statement is made that the vaccine “does not contain aborted fetal cells” — this is a straw man because no academic ever says they do.
  2. The article debunks the statement that “the first ingredient in the list is aborted fetal DNA”. This is a straw man because it doesn’t matter the position on the list, or even whether it is listed! The real question is, is any DNA from the aborted fetus in there?

In the article Jake Sargent asserts: “the vaccine does not contain ‘aborted fetal DNA’.” But does he mean what you think by this?

False distinctions & remoteness

To quote from the article again: “Fetal cell lines (not fetal tissue)… thousands of times removed from the original fetus cells, becoming known as fetal cell lines.”

For a start, no healthy cell can go far past the “Hayflick Limit” (approximately 50±10 passages/cell divisions), so a 1,000th passage cell is either utter fiction or else rather dangerous for vaccine usage (100% tumorigenicity1Tumorigenic: “Causing or tending to cause tumors” — Collins Dictionary is hit at 65th passage with cell line HEK 2932“HEK293 is not a model for normal human cells; these cells are immortalized already by known oncogene but not malignant yet.” 2011-05-23; Kavsan, Iershov & Balynska; BMC Cell Biology; Immortalised cells & one oncogene in malignant transformation
“the tumorigenicity of the HEK 293 cell line reached 100% when the passage exceeded 65, whereas using low-passage (<52) HEK 293 cell line no tumor could be induced under the same condition… more attention should be paid to the passage level of the HEK 293 cell line, especially for vaccine production but the low-passage HEK 293 cell line should be acceptable to regulatory authorities for recombinant virus vector, vaccines, and gene therapy. Meanwhile, we also find that high-passage HEK 293 can be employed as a highly malignant tumor model as its tumorigenicity increases significantly.”
2008-04-18; Shen et al; Elsevier; The tumorigenicity diversification in human embryonic kidney 293 cell line cultured in vitro
). In other words, after the cells have divided 65 times they are guaranteed to form tumors.

Also the seperation of fetal cell lines from fetal tissue seems somewhat dubious to me: whose DNA do they contain? Is it not essentially the murdered baby’s DNA? Perhaps slightly meddled with, but still their own — which is why Leonard Hayflick (and who can argue with him?) suggested the fetus’ estate had an interest in the commercial gain from cell lines.

I suspect it is this distinction that Jake Sargent has in mind when he says no “aborted fetal DNA” — it’s not the DNA that was found in the actual cells of the baby at time of harvesting. It’s DNA that was found in the subsequent (and in his mind distinct) cell line — where sometimes the DNA has been subtly tweaked to ‘immortalize‘ it, so the genome is not identical. You could argue on a technicality he’s right.

Dr Amesh Adalja, of Johns Hopkins, is quoted agreeing with this in the article: “The contents of the vaccine are filtered in a way that removes extraneous material prior to packaging.”

I asked Dr Amesh Adalja about this via Twitter:

Hi Dr Amesh, I read with interest your comments in a Reuters fact check article, where you are quoted in order to imply or affirm that there are no DNA fragments in the J&J vaccine: “The contents of the vaccine or filtered in a way that removes extraneous material prior to packaging.” Can you confirm you were stating *all* extraneous material was removed — and no DNA fragments are contained in the vaccine?

@AmeshAA 2021-04-09

While he didn’t want me to quote his reply, I can summarise what he said: Yes, that was what he had meant — but concerning DNA fragments left in the vaccine, this was not his area of expertise, and better directed to someone in quality control at J&J. Which might make you wonder why Reuters didn’t talk to someone in quality control at J&J.

I have sought the same clarity from Jake Sargent of J&J and also via their media relations contact, and any response will be recorded here.

Academic Record

Outside of popular discussion, at an academic level the argument seems hard against the Reuters’ article.

Vaccines manufactured in human fetal cell lines contain unacceptably high levels of fetal DNA fragment contaminants.

2015, Deisher et al, PubMed

Consider also Corvelva’s careful analysis showing various vaccines tested contained human DNA and RNA — and certainly all those produced in fetal tissue cell lines — they even found one contained “a complete individual genome”32020-04-27; Corvelva; VaccineGate: Priorix Tetra human genome and MRC-5 cell line – comparative study;

No final drug is ever completely ‘pure’ and you will find contaminating DNA and cellular debris from the production cell in your final product… Shouldn’t parents and grandparents know that when they immunize their children with a particular vaccine they are also injecting their children with DNA from an aborted fetus?

Theresa Deisher’s Testimony on Conscience Rights regarding Fair Labelling & Informed Consent — the bioethics archive

Even were you to disregard Deisher’s entire testimony as possibly compromised by conflict of interest, consider that the “package insert for Varivax, a chickenpox vaccine, states that the vaccine contains ‘residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein'” — very much inline with CDC’s vaccine excipients list4Search for MRC-5 & WI-38 in the CDC Vaccine Excipient Summary and you will find them listing DNA, protein, lung fibroblasts and cells — presumably debris only. and’s comments on ‘vaccine ingredients’:

Because DNA is not stable when exposed to certain chemicals, much of it is destroyed in the process of making the vaccine. Therefore, the amount of human DNA in the final vaccine preparation is minimal (trillionths of a gram) and highly fragmented.

Vaccine Ingredients — DNA, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

As a tiny aside, before dismissing Deisher’s testimony, it’s worth noting: “Dr. Deisher graduated with honors and distinction from Stanford University, and obtained her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Physiology from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University.”

By contrast Jake Sargent, who was quoted as saying the vaccine does not contain “aborted fetal DNA”, has his BS in Political Science & Government from Cornell — and his current role is Senior Director, Corporate Media Relations at Johnson & Johnson.

The article’s failure to engage with academic literature on the subject is telling, and the appeal to authority meaningless as they were outside their realm of expertise — this lack of expertise also provides plausible deniability: “So sorry — we made an innocent mistake, we didn’t know the finer details, and hadn’t found quite the right people to talk to. We weren’t lying!”

Are any DNA fragments found in vaccines produced in fetal tissue cell lines?

At an academic level, the argument is closed: vaccines produced in fetal cell lines contain human DNA fragments (albeit in some cases marginally modified from the original aborted baby’s).

Misinformation & Deception

It is hard to credit that folk whose job it is to fact check and present truth, can consistently get things so wrong unintentionally. What is said in this area can often technically be argued to be the truth, even as it utterly misleads the serious questioner and evades the point of their questions.

In this respect I find a similarity to Satan in the garden who technically only asked a question: “Has God really said…?” and then only stated: “You will not surely die… but shall become like God knowing good and evil…” — at one level both of those statements could be defended as truth. What is it to “bear false witness against your neighbor”? A witness who deceives the questioner is a false witness. The bible has it right when it says Satan is a deceiver “and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

There is no moral distinction between the presence in vaccines of fetal cells or fetal DNA fragments. However, if you ask about the former, you’ll be told, “Not present!” If the same folk do not go on to tell you about the presence of fetal DNA fragments, they are at best ignorant, and at worst disingenuous and deceptive.


At the very beginning of the “fact check” article, they state:

Social media users have been sharing posts online that claim COVID-19 vaccine produced Johnson & Johnson contains aborted fetal DNA as an ingredient. This claim is false.

Reuters Fact Check

This fact check article by Reuters is “fundamentally false”: the vaccine will contain fragments of DNA directly derivative from the aborted fetus — whether it’s a listed or intended ingredient is irrelevant.