The Metropolitan of Kythera, Seraphim, urged the flock from his pulpit to be cautious in relation to the coronavirus and the vaccine, claiming the vaccines used human fetuses for their production.
Citing sources from Italy, he said “the vaccine is made from aborted fetuses” and called on the faithful not to accept it.
On Sunday, December 27, after the vespers, the Metropolitan of Kythera said he was informed by Orthodox Christians in Italy that the vaccines were made with cells from aborted fetuses.
“This is very terrible, my brothers, and the Christians of the West, the Papists, have been concerned and have addressed their leader, the Pope, and of course he has reassured them and told them: ‘It is so, but we will accept it economically for the health of the people.’ But this is a big mistake and of course, he is outside a holy catholic and apostolic church and we can not count his opinion, but we Orthodox can not accept such a thing.”
Most of the COVID-19 vaccines in development do not use human cell lines in their production. For example, Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology.
An mRNA vaccine is a new type of synthetic vaccine. As Pfizer explains, mRNA vaccines are made from a DNA template in a lab, rather than the traditional method of being made in cells. The vaccine is then synthetically produced.
The Moderna vaccine is also synthetic. Moderna began by designing a gene sequence on a computer. Damian Garde explains how Chinese scientists, after isolating the virus from patients, posted the genetic sequence for COVID-19 online. Moderna and BioNtech used software to tell them “what chemicals to put together and in what order”.
The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University has generated the most debate.
In November 2020, it was widely claimed on social media, including this Facebook post with over 160,000 views, that the AstraZeneca vaccine contains MRC-5 cells from lung tissue of a male fetus that was aborted in the 1960s.
This specific claim has been fact-checked by Associated Press, Full Fact, Politifact, Reuters, and Snopes and found to be false.
However, AstraZeneca did use the HEK 293 cell line to develop its vaccine. These cells originate from a fetus that was aborted in the Netherlands in 1973. The fetus was aborted legally at the time for other reasons, and not for the purposes of vaccine research.
Professor Helen Petousis Harris says the cells used today are “distant descendants” of the original cells. They are from decades-old, long over abortions, and researchers do not use fetal cells from the present day.
Why can’t other cells be used? Alex Kasprak explains that this cell line was selected because they are “uniquely capable of rapidly multiplying modified adenoviruses.” In other words, this is the quickest way of making a traditional vaccine. They have been used in both medical research and the production of vaccines including hepatitis A, rubella, chickenpox, and rabies.