Children of God for Life announced on Wednesday alternative shingles vaccine produced by Glaxo SmithKline (GMK) has received FDA approval for licensing in the United States. Because the vaccine is produced using a yeast cell line, unlike Merck's Zostavax which uses aborted fetal cells, Children of God for Life said in a news release that it is "morally produced."

"Until now, people wanting to have protection from shingles have had to either use Merck's aborted fetal version or abstain entirely," said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director at Children of God for Life.  "We are absolutely thrilled that GSK has finally given the US a moral option!"

Shingrix was also approved for use in Canada last week.

Earlier this year, Children of God for Life issued a press release noting that the Shingrix was likely to get the FDA recommendation as a product of choice.  In September, the FDA did exactly that, voting unanimously in its endorsement of Shingrix. The preference for GSK's shot could seriously hurt Merck's Zostavax sales, which totaled $685 million last year. Not only is GSK's Shingrix morally produced, Children of God for Life considers it a far superior product as evidenced by lengthy clinical trials. According to a release, studies demonstrated that Shingrix is 97.2% effective in people over 50 years old.  It also maintained 90% efficacy in those 70 years old and above with 95% immunity maintained after four years.  On the other hand, Merck's Zostavax, is only 38% effective in people over 70 and only 40% duration of immunity after four years.

Photo of effects of shingles

Shingrix combines a protein from the chickenpox virus called glycoprotein E with the immune systemboosting QS-21 Stimulon made by Agenus.  This unique component is made from the bark of the Quillaja saponaria (soap bark) evergreen tree native to central Chile.

Children of God for Life is hoping that with the advancement of Shingrix, GSK could also produce a moral version of the chickenpox vaccine. Merck's Zostavax is simply a stronger version of its' chickenpox vaccine, so it seems possible that GSK could weaken Shingrix for a chickenpox vaccine.

"This is a problem we have dealt with for years and we cannot thank GSK enough for doing it right," noted Vinnedge.  "There is absolutely no reason to use the remains of aborted babies to produce vaccines."  In June 2005, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life responded to Children of God for Life's request for help stating unequivocally that: 
"Doctors and fathers of families have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines, putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human foetal origin. Equally, they should oppose by all means the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human foetus,  and requesting  rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers."

Likewise, the U.S. Conference of Bishops noted in their April 2015 updated statement that, "The Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities agrees with the National Catholics Bioethics Center, the Catholic Medical Association, and others that manufacturers should be urged to make alternative vaccines more widely available so that Catholics and others will not face this moral dilemma."   

"I commend GSK for the development of Shingrix," said John F. Brehany, Director of Institutional Relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. "And I commend the thousands of people who by their prayers and petitions have helped to bring about this day. I hope they will redouble their efforts. Safe, effective, and ethical vaccines can and should be provided by the pharmaceutical companies. And everyone who respects human life and dignity should make use of these ethical alternatives."



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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