Ethical, non-aborted fetus-derived vaccines may soon be available in Canada. According to Alberta and Ontario health ministries, ethical vaccines to replace a brand made from cell lines derived from aborted fetuses will soon be available in Canada.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Rene Leiva, an Ottawa-based family doctor and spokesperson for Canadian Physicians for Life. “This way we are avoiding being coerced into using a medical treatment that violates the consciences of many parents.”
It is unclear, however, when the change will take place, as a bulk contract with Sanofi Pasteur is up in March 2007 and the company may face competition when Public Works Canada opens up the bulk contract to other bidders. So Leiva is urging Canadians to continue to pressure their respective provincial health ministries to make ethical vaccines available.
Canadian Physicians for Life’s president Dr. Will Johnston had written provincial health ministers in early December, urging them to replace the Sanofi Pasteur’s Pentacel, a vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, polio and other illnesses, with Pediacel, an ethical vaccine made by the same company and also approved by Health Canada.
Sanofi Pasteur’s major competitor GlaxoSmithKline may compete for the contract. Its Infanrix-IPV-Hib combination vaccine was recently licensed for use in Canada. Leiva said that vaccine is also ethical.
Several provincial health ministries have replied. In a Dec. 22 letter, Alberta’s deputy health minister Paddy Meade wrote Canadian Physicians for Life the province was aware “some vaccines are made from human cell-line cultures which were derived from embryonic tissue from three medically indicated abortions conducted decades ago.”
“These cell lines are self-sustaining; additional abortions are not needed to sustain the vaccine manufacturing process and no abortions are conducted for the specific purpose of harvesting cell lines,” Meade wrote. He did indicate that Pediacel, which has not yet been available in Canada, would soon be purchased as “part of the bulk procurement program.’
“These cell lines are not immortal but eventually will need to be replaced eventually with something else, be it embryonic stem cells or another abortion,” Leiva pointed out.
As many as 80 aborted fetuses were involved in the research leading to the successful cell lines.
Ontario’s health ministry also responded to Dr. Johnston’s letter. “We appreciate your support for the provincially funded immunization program,” wrote Dr. Barbara Kawa, the head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Control and Immunization Unit in a Jan. 2 letter. “While we understand the concern of persons opposed to vaccines developed from fetal cell lines, ensuring the security of a safe and effective vaccine supply also needs to be considered when vaccine contracts are awarded.”
Dr. Kawa also wrote that “Sanofi Pasteur will be replacing the Pentacel vaccine with the Pediacel vaccine shortly, for the Canadian market.”
Sanofi Pasteur Canada’s deputy director of government relations Jason Locklin told CCN it is “up to our public health customers to choose” the vaccine they prefer.
“The reason that we’re making Pediacel available to governments across Canada is that it has a large advantage for public health in that it is fully liquid, which greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to administer the vaccine,” he said. “It can be drawn from the vial directly to the patient.” Pentacel needs to be reconstituted before it is injected.
Locklin said he had not heard previously about ethical concerns about Pediacel.
Leiva said that fact that commonly used vaccines came from cell lines derived from aborted fetuses was “under the radar” even for the pro-life community.
He said he fears a slippery slope because a 2001 letter to U.S. President George Bush signed by more than 75 Nobel Laureates argued for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research using the example of the vaccines from human fetuses as a precedent. At least one of the laureates is connected with a private company that claimed to have cloned a human embryo in 2002.
Dr. Leiva said other vaccines need ethical alternatives. For example, polio booster shots (IPV) come from aborted fetus cell lines. “IPV has a legal, ethical alternative and it’s called Imovax Polio.
Other examples of tainted vaccines are Rubella, Chicken Pox and Hepatitis-A,” he said. “The government should encourage research into alternatives.”
[29Jan07, D. Gyapong, CCN, Eckstein, Ottawa, Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN), www.chninternational.com]