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Religion, fetal cells and COVID-19…oh my !


The Pew Research Center reported that while 91% of vaccinated adults see COVID-19 vaccines as the best way to protect Americans from the spread of COVID-19, the remaining unvaccinated adult tends to be of the Protestant faith – with predominance in White Evangelicals and Black Protestants.

The associated angst for anti-COVID-19 vaccinators is due religious conviction. Use of aborted fetal cells in the development, testing and manufacturing of the vaccine is the belief. Dr. Zimmerman, a Public Health and Preventive Medicine medical provider from Pittsburgh, PA weighs in on this controversial topic in an article published June 2021. Dr. Zimmerman dispels this misconception with the fact that while fetal cell lines from past 1970s and 80s elective abortions are used to test the efficacy of mRNA vaccines, the cells are not used in the development of the vaccine nor do any of the three currently approved versions of the vaccine contain any aborted fetal cells.

While respecting each patient’s autonomy, Dr. Zimmerman offers bioethical points to aid such a patient with religious convictions in their decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Finally, he notes that many religious and pro-life leaders have reviewed the current vaccine development processes and deemed getting vaccinated a morally acceptable act of charity. In conclusion, getting the COVID-19 vaccine (regardless of brand name) is seen as an act of altruism.

Image from August Pew Research Center Survey of more than 10,000 U.S. adults.


  1. Funk, Cary and Gramlich, John. (2021, September 20). 10 facts about Americans and coronavirus vaccines.
  1. Zimmerman R. K. (2021). Helping patients with ethical concerns about COVID-19 vaccines in light of fetal cell lines used in some COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine, 39(31), 4242–4244.

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Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is an American viral immunologist. She is an Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Shutzer Assistant

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